Neighbors battle to save forest in face of flood control plans

March 19, 2012 4:47:05 PM PDT
Save our forests, or shore up our flood protection? A debate is brewing between city officials and residents of the Briarwood community.

Right now, the proposal is just in its early stages of discussion, but some neighbors are ready to fight to keep it from becoming a reality. The group "Save Our Forest" agrees there is a flooding problem in Houston that needs to be remedied. But they don't think bulldozing current patches of forest along Buffalo Bayou is the solution.

Save Our Forest signs stand out in several yards throughout the Briar Forest and Memorial area. Many residents are standing up against a possible city/county detention project that could destroy heavily wooded areas of Terry Hershey Park.

Greg Daniels with Save Our Forest said, "They'll come in with their two inch, three inch samplings and put them into the ground and have an asphalt trail."

Daniels is trying to save a stretch of forest that runs along Buffalo Bayou, from Beltway 8 west to Wilcrest.

"The entire southern banks except for one stretch is largely forested and is inhabited by a large amount of wildlife," Daniels explained. "The trees are very well established now. Some of them pre-date the channelization that took place."

The park also includes many manmade trails for bikers, runners and hikers that locals use private grant money to maintain and improve with wooden bridges.

William Rustam with the Greater Houston Off Road Biking Association said, "If you're riding on a mountain bike or you want to run in the forest, that's not something you can do. They are unable to replace it with lined trees, which is what one of the proposals is."

The City of Houston's Public Works Department confirms it is seeking approval from the county to conduct an environmental study of the area along Buffalo Bayou.

Save Our Forest acknowledges flooding issues, but doesn't feel wiping out a natural forest is the answer. They are proposing other sites, like a lot in the 12500 block of Memorial, where a park like detention basin can be added.

"We want this to be a permanent park for the residents in the surrounding area and we don't want them digging up our forest," Daniels said.

The group planned to attend a capital improvement planning meeting with city and county officials.