Bicyclists square off against Harris County

October 7, 2009 9:05:34 PM PDT
Bicyclists are squaring off against the Harris County Flood Control District in a battle over land. A bike riders group has been using a patch of land in Stude Park near the Katy Freeway, but Flood Control wants it to stop. The bike group is called Yetticross. Every week they participate in a form of cross-country bike racing called Cyclo-Cross. It's races are usually scheduled for Wednesday nights here near Stude Park, but there was no race Wednesday night and they won't be going forward unless they find another location.

"We do the run up, up the hill. We go down the hill," said Kelly Strader.

With its slope and wide empty space, Strader thought this was the perfect plot of land for his extreme kind of bike race.

"It gets people outside," said Strader.

More than that, it gets the blood pumping.

"When I started, I weighed in at about 290 pounds. I dropped about 60 pounds since I started competing," said Strader.

For the friendly competition that usually draws about 150 people each week, they need at least a half-mile of land, grass, and an incline. The spot along White Oak Bayou seemed perfect. Last week, Strader learned the hard way it wasn't.

"The officer had their hands on their weapons," Strader said.

He was met by deputy constables threatening to cite him for criminal trespassing. What he calls good clean recreation, the Harris County Flood Control District considers destructive.

"We can't allow that," said Heather Saucier of the HCFCD.

She says the district has been very clear. The land is part of their easement they must protect.

"I know it may just seem like a bicycle ride, but those tires actually rut the dirt, it destroys the vegetation and it makes the banks of the bayou highly prone to erosion," said Saucier.

Strader says they have offered to re-seed the land after use, pick up trash and move the course periodically so nothing is damaged.

"We just want to ride our bikes. It's a lot of fun. It's healthy," said Strader.

They are still holding out hope something will change.

"What we'd like to do it to possibly have a dialogue," said Strader.

But it might be time to move one.

"Unless our mission statement changes, I don't see that happening. We've got to protect our drainage infrastructure," said Saucier.

The Flood Control District says they will continue to ask deputy constables to enforce the no trespassing. The cyclists hope the City of Houston is more welcoming in helping them find another location for their bike races.

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