Deadline Looms for Heights-Area Park

The future of the West 11th Street Park has been in limbo for some time now. A portion of the park may be sold ot developers to pay off a loan. As Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports, park supporters have just a few months to raise money and preserve the complete park

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The West 11th Street Park is located just west of the Heights. It's 20 acres of wooded land with walking trails. Five acres of the property is designated as collateral for a $3.6 million loan the Houston Parks Board took out to buy the park. Nancy Greig is a volunteer working to raise funds to pay off the loan. She says the loan is for one year, but the Parks Board wants to get out from under it because it's accumulating interest.

"And so they have said if the money's not here by August 15th, we're going to sell it. So, and of course, we're pretty sure and they've basically said that it will be sold to a housing developer. And of course it's really hot property right now, you know places are going up all around it. And so that would mean a quarter of the park would become a housing development."

The board has promised they will only sell off as much land as is necessary to pay off the debt. So if community members can raise say another million dollars, only four acres instead of five will go to developers. But Houston City Councilwoman Toni Lawrence says the entire park should be preserved.

"In our mind, this is more than just a neighborhood park. This is the last large piece of greenspace the city will get a chance of owning inside the Loop. And as we move to high density, I think this is very important greenspace."

While another five acres of development may not sound like much, residents are concerned it will have an impact on the wildlife and ecosystem in the rest of the park. Greig says there are more than 1,000 trees in the park, creating a habitat for birds and butterflies.

"Numerous woodpeckers there. There's Great Horned Owls, in fact we had a pair of baby Great Horned Owls born there this spring. And it's become quite well known as a great birding spot, Houston Audubon takes groups there. And the local butterfly group does part of their July butterfly count there. And of course, all the people that come to just walk around or come to walk their dogs."

The portion of the park still in limbo contains a small ballfield along with walking trails and woods. Greig says quite frankly what they need is money, and a lot of it, to preserve the land. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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