I was alerted to an egregious clear-cutting along Woodland Park, a City of Houston public park at the edge of the Woodland Heights, by a neighbor’s posting on our online bulletin board:
The Friends of Woodland Park, Inc. would like inform and acknowledge for the neighborhood that it appears there has been unauthorized vegetation removal within the Park. We are currently working with the Houston Parks and Recreation Department (HPARD) to determine the cause and initiate a solution to protect the Park and its inhabitants. Currently information is limited due to an ongoing investigation. We know many of you use the park on a regular basis and would be interested/concerned. So we wanted to assure the neighborhood that we are aware of the matter and are working on it. As more details become available we will report them.
The Friends of Woodland Park is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit that was formed and is funded by the sweat, tears, and quite possibly, knowing about thorns and such, blood, to protect the second public park developed in Houston. They organize clean-ups, host movie nights, and work closely with the Parks Department to maintain this gracious public space.
I hopped in the car to see what this “unauthorized vegetation removal” entailed, thinking maybe they dug up some dewberry bushes. I must tell you that my neighbor exercised heroic restraint in writing such a measured notice.
Click over to see the pictures and see Swamplot for more. From what has been reported on the aforementioned neighborhood BB, about three-quarters of an acre was clear-cut. That’s in a park that’s a bit more than 20 acres in total size. A newly installed mulch path was destroyed. Did we mention that this is a public park? The apparent reasoning for this was to provide a better view of the bayou for the three townhomes that are being built on property that abuts the park. Yeah, this is pretty damn incredible.
At this point, the city is fully engaged, beginning with but by no means limited to CM Gonzalez’s office. Swamplot reports that the developer has taken responsibility, calling the clearcutting the result of a “miscommunication”. We’ll see about that. The local news was all over it last night – here’s KTRK for starters. Your Houston News has a press release from the Houston Parks and Recreation Department about the action they’ve taken to stop this. At this point, the word has been spread, the developer has owned up and apologized, and it’s mostly a matter of assessing the damage and figuring out who’s going to do what, and who’s going to pay for what, to fix it as best we can. I hope we can at least undo most of this.
UPDATE: The Chron has a good story on this.
“We’ll do whatever we have to do criminally or civilly to make sure that public property is protected and renewed,” City Attorney David Feldman said Wednesday.
“It’s not just removing a few native plants or trees, it’s a major intrusion,” said Houston City Councilman Ed Gonzalez, who represents the area. ” … To me, it’s just a terrible situation and we need to get to the bottom of it.”
Feldman said the city is trying to assess exactly what was destroyed and the value of the damage.
“I don’t know how many trees were alive, how many trees were dead, but obviously that’s public property,” Feldman said. “It does involve destruction of public property, which is both a criminal matter as well as a civil matter.”
The city recently took action against a hotel owner for over-trimming city trees on South Main, Feldman said.
The Parks Department reported that the cleared property included some healthy trees. Reforestation and replanting will be necessary, and erosion control and possible regrading of the site may be required, officials said. A debris pile will also need to be removed.
[Developer Bill] Workman said a large amount of bamboo and an undergrowth of vines were removed in the clearing.
He said he has met with city officials and he will comply with whatever the Parks Department requires of him. He said the townhome project will go forward.
We’ll see what the city has to say about this.
UPDATE: Hair Balls adds on.