Happy Trails? The Battle Over a Bike Path and the Fate of the Texas AIDS Memorial Garden

Everyone thinks bike paths are a good idea. Just maybe not in their own neighborhood.

Lawson's letter named Tomaro Bell, a member of the civic club's board, as one of the Ardmore homeowners requesting an audience with White. At a 2005 Houston City Council meeting, Bell also spoke in opposition to the proposed Ardmore section. But in 2013, Bell didn't return calls seeking comment. Also joining the Not Returning Phone Calls Club was Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church Pastor D.Z. Cofield, whose name appeared on a 2005 petition against the Ardmore section.

Bob Conwell, one of the civic club's current co-presidents, didn't want to be interviewed for this story, either. Score another point for Parker. And unlike Ada Edwards, who represented the neighborhood on City Council during the first battle, was vocal about making sure people in the civic club were heard and was often quoted in media reports at the time, current Councilwoman Wanda Adams was mum. She couldn't be bothered to comment for this story.

Brenda Rogers, the club's other co-president, didn't give a ringing endorsement but seemed fine with the Ardmore connector as long as there was proper lighting. Some of the homeowners along Ardmore are elderly, and safety was their main concern, she said.

"Hopefully the trail won't be a negative for them. Hopefully it'll work out fine for everybody," Rogers said, adding later, "We're just hoping for the best as far as safety...since they were going to go through with it anyway, we decided we'd try and get whatever safety measures we could put in place."

Perhaps the most vocal opponent was past club president Al Lloyd, who wrote in a statement, "I am outraged that Mayor Parker wants to green light this project after several years of strong protest by our community" and "I'm deeply saddened that Mayor Parker rejects or disregards our community as not worthy of the same respect given by her predecessor."

But past president Lloyd is just that — a past president. Definitely doesn't count as much. That's maybe a half-point for the opposition.

Compare the weak cries of the naysayers to the strong cries of outspoken bicyclists, and it's no freaking contest. Bikers in Houston are an especially vocal group, and as far as they could tell, the only person standing between them and the completion of the Columbia Tap was some conspiracy-minded dude who had planted a garden on city property and was now whining that the city actually wanted to use the land.

David Dick, the head of the Houston Pedestrian-Bike Advisory Committee, bemoaned Lee's "selfish interest" in holding up the Columbia Tap and pointed out that residents who once opposed a different bike path — the Terry Hershey trail — now love it, and the same will probably happen here. It's a simple lesson, really: Like children, some citizens don't know what's best for them, and it's up to a paternal city government to take them by the hand and show them the way.

Mike Skelly, an avid bicyclist and a member of the Houston Parks Board, said the city was more than fair with Lee, given that the city didn't have to concede one flower petal since it's city land. Instead, he said, officials were willing to work with Lee.

"It's great that we live in a city where we're having discussions about accommodating both hike-and-bike trails and AIDS memorial gardens," he said. "That seems like two great things to have in our city."

He also noted that, in 2012, Houstonians overwhelmingly approved a huge public expenditure to expand parks and greenways on the bayous. People want bike trails. And it would be awesome if bike trails didn't have 1,500-foot gaps.

It would be awesome if the bicyclist-­pedestrian coordinator for the city's Public Works and Engineering Department, Dan Raine, had spoken to the Houston Press for this story. After all, he's the expert when it comes to bike trails. But Raine instead referred us to ­Public Works and Engineering Department spokesman Alvin Wright. Curiously, when we first contacted Wright for questions about the Columbia Tap connector, he told us his department has nothing to do with that and that it belongs to the Parks and Recreation Department. Of course, that department's spokeswoman, Estella Espinosa, told us Parks and Rec has nothing to do with that. When we took that back to Wright, he explained in an e-mail, "I cannot be more clear when I write, the Parks Department is the lead on this project."

Spanjian later apologized for the confusion: "[Public Works and Engineering] builds a lot of trails, but not all of them. That's why they thought it was Parks. They just spoke too soon."

So Raine, the guy who probably knows the Houston Bikeway Program better than anyone else in the city of Houston, wouldn't talk to us for a story about a bike path controversy, but instead he referred us to someone who repeatedly and incorrectly asserted that the project belonged to a different department.

Raine insisted that we "respect" the protocols of talking to a press officer (even if the press officer is clueless), a protocol that apparently didn't exist in 2009, when Raine spoke to the Houston Chronicle for a blowjob of a blurb describing him as "exactly the kind of rainmaker the cycling community needs on its side — working from the inside." Or in 2010, when he told the Chronicle that Houston was in for some "pleasant surprises" regarding bike trails. The protocol was also apparently not in effect in March 2012, when Raine, in his official capacity, commented on popular real estate blog Swamplot regarding the Heritage West ­Bikeway.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
24 comments
rmichaell
rmichaell

Is the Mayor sending me a message? aidsmemorialgarden.com

This bike trail extending Columbia Tap to the dead-end is about 1500 feet long. The portion that goes through the AIDS Memorial garden is less than 500 feet long...the rest is a waste land of gravel, piles of debris and trash. The Mayor wanted it completed before her re-election.Guess what part the Mayor completed? Mayor Parker ordered the destruction of trees, shrubs, daylily and perennial gardens and memorial sites with ashes to pave 500 feet. I personally asked the Mayor to schedule the portion affecting the gardens to autumn when l and volunteers from Mercer Arboretum could carefully relocate important trees, memorials, shrubs and plants. She refused and instead responded with the surprise of bull-dozers arriving in July.The Mayor’s staff and Houston Police escorted the bull-dozers.

curaecivem
curaecivem

The state throws the people a bone who think they've won some tin battle, never realizing what pawns they are. Enjoy your trail, and the muggings. You deserve both.

 

mojo_peace41
mojo_peace41

Wow, all this political stuff.

I was just logging on to say that, as a suburban housewife in Spring who will probably never use this bike trail, I would like to contribute $20 towards a nice bench or plaque that celebrates the work this gentleman put into creating a beautiful space which will, ultimately, be a source of pride for Houston when everyone currently involved in the squabbling is long dead and gone.

Let me know if there's a fund or something. I think it's a wonderful testament to the people who have died of this heartbreaking disease, and I would like to thank the person who envisioned this garden. I'd like to say thanks and help, in some small way. This seems like it's been a labor of love from the beginning, and I hate that something so fundamentally wonderful as a memorial garden that everyone can share has turned into the source of such intense---if temporary, in the life of a garden---contention.

brileyjames
brileyjames

I live near Pinemont and use it to travel to work on my electric scwhinn the side of the road is for drainage not a bike path, you ever tried to ride in one during a rain storm, drivers have a sick sense of humor by driving into the water as they pass you,and honkin as the water hits totally unsafe

archWLC
archWLC

I think this article can be edited down a bit, and am I the only one found this sentence troubling?

" ... when Raine spoke to the Houston Chronicle for a blowjob of a blurb describing him as 'exactly the kind of rainmaker the cycling community needs on its side..."

captkrusty
captkrusty

Malisow certainly nailed Dan Raine's the ("rainmaker") Ped/bike coordinators usual lack of response and action by deflection. 

A few years ago I spoke to Dan in person and mentioned an e-mail inquiry I directed to him and he responded, " did I reply?   I usually don't". 

It's not so good to know that Dan's staying true to form.

BTW, Dan's being paid as public servant for what?

As for ownership rights, tax records and receipts are usually a pretty clear indicator ownership.  Apparently Lee had none, so I don't understand what the controversy was in the first place.  Thank you Mayor Parker for taking this bull by the horns and for moving Houston in a positive direction.

H_e_x
H_e_x

George Carlin said it best. People's idea of a better environment isn't actual change or anything, it's making bike paths. 

fred413001
fred413001

I'm glad to know about both the trail and the AIDS memorial. I'll stop on my bike once the trail's built and take a moment by the column to just sit and be still and remember my uncle Tom who died of AIDS in the early 90's and honor his memory. There's room for both a trail and a memorial, and the city is better off for each as they're both important to many different people. There's no reason why we have to choose between one or the other, so this fight is just kind of out of proportion to the reality of the situation.

texmex01
texmex01 topcommenter

"It's fascinating to see spandex-clad bikers from the Heights interacting with residents in the Third Ward. It's wonderful to observe, because if they were in their car, that wouldn't happen. On a bicycle, you're connected to the people; you say hi to them...there's social interaction"


Then they rob them....

tazrocks
tazrocks

Once again Mayor Porker is shoving a green scam initiative down everyone's throat. Typical Socialist strategy. Look at our Socialist-in-chief Obummer. doing the same thing

larsonvargas
larsonvargas

This article is...weird. It comes off to me like Malisow realized half-way through researching the issue that it's a non-story, but still had come out with SOMETHING after committing to write about the damn thing, so he put a bunch of focus on what a pain in the ass it was to not have anyone want to talk to him. 

Was this supposed to be a story about a heartless city and opportunistic developer desecrating an AIDS garden? Was this supposed to be a story about a narcissistic blowhard who only bothers to inform people of his AIDS garden when the forward-minded city and developer threaten to open it up to the public good? 

After reading this, I'm not entirely sure (though I'm more or less leaning towards the latter). The main question I have ultimately is "was this a story worth telling?"

gsstep
gsstep

Recently saw a story about this bike path on TV. Said gangs were robbing cyclists & taking their money & even their bikes. So if you go there beware.


westmorelandshepard
westmorelandshepard

The last paragraph best justifies this project. The garden and memory of those who died during the early days of this plague will now be accessible to the whole city, both gay and straight. With the spread of the plague into the Black community, the 3rd Ward is a good place to be reminded that hiv/AIDS is still with us. We all need to be reminded every day. This bike path going through the garden is an appropriate addition to the memorial, bringing the stream of everyday life through a memorial to those who's travel on the path of life was cut short.

Motherscratcher
Motherscratcher

It's reprehensible the lengths that our city and county officials are going through to create these paths. Utter disregard for communities and homeowners. Sleight of hand and worse being used to provide legal justification for the construction. Metro, the County, various MUD's, Harris County Flood Control District. At least they didn't try to re-title the homeowner's property like they did in Katy for the Mason Creek trail. That story is much more insidious than this one with regard to property rights. Either way, it's sad for the homeowners. All in the name of public good at the expense of the few.

captkrusty
captkrusty

@archWLC No actually, I found it totally spot on accurate. 

Try giving the "Rainmaker" a call or e-mail yourself and find out what kind of no reply you get. 

Remember the most dangerous place you can put yourself is between Dan and a news camera shooting a new trail ribbon cutting ceremony.  Especially one which he had little or nothing to do with but will gladly expound on how he made it happen.  Don't believe me?  Just ask Dan himself but not on record of course. 

Kylejack
Kylejack topcommenter

@texmex01 Just a couple knuckleheads that will be caught soon. I rode this trail for years before the recent incidents.

fred413001
fred413001

@tazrocks What are you even talking about? A majority of Houston's citizens voted in favor of expanding our hike and bike trails, so Mayor Parker is actually just doing the job that we the people mandated for her.

 For the record, calling people childish nicknames doesn't really endear sensible people to your point of view.

Kylejack
Kylejack topcommenter

@Motherscratcher It wasn't his property, it was public property that he had claimed for his project. It belongs to the public.

marcy
marcy

@Motherscratcher 

Public good at the expense of few beats good for the few at the expense of the public.

Public land being enjoyed by the public instead of the few seems like a good idea to me.

Motherscratcher
Motherscratcher

The backslapping and attaboys that go with the paving over beautiful natural paths with 10ft wide asphalt mini-freeways is disgusting. Problem is, it's federally funded...and...if you can link it to a Metro park&ride you can get some of that nice Metro money, too. When they degrade, who's going to repair them? Where is that money going to come from. When the funding dries up, we will have a county and city that is responsible for maintaining hundreds of miles of what are essentially small roads that are dangerous to travel on unless maintained properly. Once paved, there is an expectaion that they will be maintained to provide reasonably safe passage.

rmichaell
rmichaell

@Kylejack @Motherscratcher  If you want the history of the ownership of property please visit aidsmemorialgarden.com,  do not believe all of the propaganda promoted by this Mayor--she has only one agenda--get re-elected.

Motherscratcher
Motherscratcher

Ahhh...the "needs" of the collective. If you had property taken for this purpose you might have a different perspective. I am not assering that Mr. Lee had his property "taken". I, however, have experienced it.                     

There are real infrastructure issues that bike paths will never solve. Couple that with the seemingly insatiable drive to connect paths in every county precinct and every commissioner putting each of his names on every sign in the county and we have a Quixotic quest to pave every naturally existing path for what? If you respond to the question, please be specific.

 
Loading...