Kirby Drive in southwest Houston is in the middle of a major commercial and residential high rise development. A long-term project to connect Buffalo Bayou to Braes Bayou with an enormous sewer line underneath Kirby should alleviate flooding issues in the area, but it comes at the loss of 124 trees that line the section of Kirby. Bill Coats is founding president of Trees For Houston, a volunteer organization that has planted and monitored more than three hundred-thousand trees and seedlings the past twenty-five years.
“The Upper Kirby District first wanted to do this as a four lane street where all the trees would have been saved, but that was nixed. It’s both the Upper Kirby District and City Public Works that have a lot to say about what gets built here. We’re proposing the 71-foot plan with construction methodology that will keep the construction within the 71-feet and will save all of the trees.”
Bridget Jensen, is a longtime resident of the area. She remembers walking down Kirby getting donations from restaurant patrons to plant the trees that are now facing destruction.
“Having these trees removed would be like…like losing a child almost. I walked the neighborhood to get both commercial and residential donations to plant these trees. It’s just breaking my heart, and I’m not against. I’m a native Houstonian. I’m not against progress, but I think what little ambience we have as a place that we’re proud to drive people down the street, we would lose without these beautiful older trees.”
Buddy Bailey is chairman of the Upper Kirby District. He says 148 more trees will be planted, sidewalks widened and amenities like benches, landscaping and lighting will be added.
“The redevelopment of Kirby Drive has been a seven year project to improve flood control drainage, enhance mobility and create a safe pedestrian way. 87 percent of the landowners along this part of Kirby have written letters of approval of the land construction as currently designed. Many residents in the area will gain relief from the chronic flooding.”
The board of the upper Kirby District is to meet next week to vote on the contract to remove the trees.
Pat Hernandez, KUHF, Houston Public Radio News.