There's a section of Terry Hershey Park around Dairy Ashford on the west side of town that's called the "Ant Hills." It's about an 8-mile stretch of undulating, natural-surface tree-lined trails regularly used by bikers, walkers and hikers. Bill Rustam is head of the Greater Houston Off-Road Biking Association or GHORBA. Natural-surface trails like these are usually maintained by GHORBA and Rustam says he's seen firsthand how much the "Ant Hills" mean to the area.
"I don't know of another area that quite has what the Ant Hills has to offer. Frankly, once you take it, it's gone and you know that's it. These trees have been here for many many years and what they're proposing won't do it justice."
Bill Rustam of the Greater Houston Off-Road Biking Association
"They" are the Harris County Flood Control District. What was proposed was "Charting Buffalo," an extensive study that covered the 32 miles of the Buffalo Bayou. "Charting Buffalo" was born out of a federal study with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that focused on flood damage reduction. That's where the addition of the detention basins came in.
"The problem is, in order to create those, you've gotta take the trees out, and then the contouring and the uniqueness that makes the 'Ant Hills' the trails that they are would be taken away effectively, and they cannot be replaced by what the county and city will propose."
What the city and county originally proposed has been put on hold since the public outcry from GHORBA and Briar Forest Super Neighborhood or BFSNC. And it's difficult to tell what their revised version will look like because they haven't quite got there yet. Fred Garcia is with the Harris County Flood Control District. He maintains that regardless of what the new plan looks like their goal is to reduce flooding, but with respect to the community.
"We've heard loud and clear from one group that the forest is something that is valued, and we take that information seriously. What I had hoped is that we would find a way to balance the interest and have a plan that is mutually acceptable by all parties, and we all give and take a little bit, but we get flood damage reduction as well as continuing to maintain some level of forest as well as areas where cyclists and mountain bikers can play."
No date as of yet has been set for when the Flood Control District will unveil the next draft of "Charting Buffalo." However, Rustam says that doesn't mean BFSNC and GHORBA under the umbrella group Save Our Forest are going to remain silent on the issue. In fact, they intend to be heard at a Neighborhood Capital Projects meeting tonight at 6:30pm at Paul Revere Middle School in Briar Forest. While "Charting Buffalo" and the "Ant Hills" aren't specifically on the meeting's agenda, Rustam says they'll be ready to bring it up.