Woodland Park is just north of Buffalo Bayou and bounded by Houston Avenue and I-45. It was grand in its heyday. Little White Oak Bayou was dammed making a lake for boating and swimming. The park had a Ferris wheel. There was a trolley from downtown. But all that was lost over the years as trees and thick underbrush took over.
Rice: "... and it's kind of been forgotten?"
"Yes, totally, I don't think anything's been done here for about 50-years."
"People in the neighborhood, when we said we were working on Woodland Park would go 'OK', and this is our neighborhood. They’d say, 'remind me where Woodland Park is.' And then we'd say, 'we're trying to work on Little White Oak Bayou' — they didn't know there was a bayou in here. The woods had completely enveloped this whole area and it was formidable."
Louise Moss and Becky Houston were two of the original friends of Woodland Park. The park in recent years appears to be only a grass field, yellow brick community building and a basketball court backed by a tree line. But that is only about a third of the park. The other two-thirds is the thick woods that Little White Oak Bayou winds through for 3/4's of mile about 30-feet below street level. It sounds bucolic, but it's not.
Floods over the years have made this section of Little White Oak the last refuge of lots of trash, debris and hundreds of tires. The four Friends of Woodland Park, their spouses and some volunteers made trails down to the water and on weekends would pull tires out of bayou. But little headway was made, until Felicia Zbranek joined the group.
"We were, back in April, pulling out tires and, Pat Rutledge and I were pulling up a tire that said Firestone, and I said, 'What the heck, I'm going to contact all these tire companies,' and Bridgestone was the only one that responded to the e-mail."
Bridgestone had just launched its "One Team, One Planet" tire clean-up program. It agreed to pay for a recent day long tire removal project that had dozens of volunteers haul almost 500 tires out of the bayou. They were washed and shipped off for recycling.
The clean-up effort made a huge dent, but many months and perhaps years of work and lots of money will be needed before the park's friends will have the Woodland Park of their dreams.
"Where not going to put a Ferris wheel back here, but just restore it to its natural beauty. We're working with an organization to come up with some designs to put in a community garden, update the community center and really make this a place where people will be drawn to it."
"In our really wildest dreams, those beautiful meadows that are upstream will be part of a hike and bike trail that connects Moody Park to Woodland Park, to Freed Park, to White Oak Bayou. And there will be no more dumping of anything because people will be riding their bikes down there."