Rough Riders

Keep the ATVs: There are a lot of reasons why ATVs should be allowed to continue to ride in the Spring Creek area ["Keeping It Real," by Margaret Downing, September 16]. Also, please be aware that Senate Bill 155 (the law that bans ATVs and OHVs from most Texas navigable rivers and streams) is hurting our local economy, has eliminated one million acres of recreational use of public land from motorized vehicle users (according to a recent report by the General Land Office) and has left many off-road enthusiasts with little or no place to ride, despite the fact that the state of Texas received more than $2 million this year in federal (Recreation Trails Program) funding to build motorized trails for our citizens.

Professor Ronald Kaiser of Texas A&M recently submitted a report to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that provided the percentages of Texans who participate in these outdoor activities: 22.7 percent, developed camping; 16.3 percent, driving off-road; 15 percent, mountain biking; 12.1 percent, hunting.

These statistics should help illustrate the large potential for economic development if more off-road parks are created on public land in Texas.

Please be aware that many off-roaders from the Houston area have begun a new grassroots effort and petition drive to repeal SB 155 and to encourage county governments to create new ATV/OHV parks using already available federal funds.

Please go to our new Web site at www.GiveBackOurTrails.com for more information about our grassroots effort.

Happy trails.

Mike Kowis

Common sense: Surely those people are intelligent enough to know that they can cause environmental harm by running their ATVs and Hummers in Spring Creek and other areas. And you can add to that the great potential for pollution of the water supply for the city of Houston with oil and/or engine coolants. Don't they care how it may affect them and their families personally?

Spring Creek is navigable in fact, if not in law. As a member of the Houston Canoe Club and the Bayou Preservation Association, I've been paddling it for better than 20 years.

Name withheld by request

Cheap thrills: I appreciated your insightful article. As a Montgomery County resident who is concerned with preserving what little we have left of our natural resources, I find the problem valid and worrisome. The story seemed to give all sides of the issue an opportunity to comment. What I didn't see covered, though, was the serious problem of these scofflaws who are slowly destroying even private property owners' natural resources.

It seems to be a common practice for the ATV riders to carry chains and saws to clear trees that impede their progress on Spring Creek, regardless of the fact that the trees are on private property. I have heard several property owners comment about posting signs to discourage trespassing, only to have such notices ignored with seeming impunity.

Applause to the county commissioners and law officers who are working to control the situation. They will no doubt have to overcome ridicule from those who wish to continue destroying the creek's beauty for the sake of a thrill. I hope they will persevere in their efforts to contain these destructive riders to the property of those who condone such action. I doubt fines will be enough, and hope the arrests will continue.

The plan to make the creek a park for public enjoyment may be spoiled by those who are uncaring about loss of the natural beauty of Spring Creek and ignorant of the rights of others as they trespass. Since the number is growing, the hardest battle to control them may be ahead.

Thank you again for making more of the public aware of this growing problem. Changing behavior begins with changing minds. I hope that your readers will consider the need to change their minds about ignoring this problem as one of little consequence.

Teri MacArthur

Nature lover: Why not write an article on the good things going on at Spring Creek? It's not all about riding an ATV and drinking. Nor does it promote destroying a "fragile ecosystem." The majority are outdoorspeople who appreciate the land and nature. Hundreds of cars drive over bridges that cross Spring Creek, spilling more waste into the water system. A hundred years of ATV riding could not create that destruction.

Since moving here from Tulsa a year ago, I have found nothing but good people and good times riding on the creek. My entire family enjoys beaches that would otherwise be inaccessible. Being an avid mountain biker, kayaker and backpacker, I fully respect the land and nature. I have tried to bike and paddle Spring Creek, but it is impossible because of the shallow water and deep sand.

There will always be exceptions to rules, but we do our best to run people off who try to ruin it for the majority. Please, in any way possible, help us keep our trails. They will be used for many great family times and memories that I know my child will remember forever. Also, not to mention a strictly selfish reason: They are my refuge from the office.

Daniel D. Belcher Jr.

Streaming in the dark: In your article, game warden William Skeen was quoted as saying that the navigability of Spring Creek could vary according to stream flow. As a Texas Parks and Wildlife enforcement officer, he should know that, according to Texas law, the actual flow does not determine whether a stream is navigable. According to state statutes, a stream is navigable if the distance between the midpoints of the two banks (the "gradient boundary") averages 30 feet or more.

Also, Skeen should know that does not mean that every navigable stretch has to be 30 feet or more wide. TPWD and other law enforcement officials have for years claimed that implementing the law on this issue is difficult because there is no agreement about what is a navigable stream. What they really mean is that they would prefer not to enforce the law where it would upset influential landowners.

Steve Daniel
College Station

Saintly Bubbas: I am extremely disappointed and upset with Margaret Downing's portrayal of all off-highway vehicle enthusiasts as "Bubbas." Nothing could be further from the truth.

Ms. Downing did an excellent job researching this issue. Unfortunately, she apparently researched only one side. Either that, or she wanted this article to help sway public opinion against off-highway vehicle use.

She should have mentioned that off-roaders spend much of their money and time helping to preserve the areas in which they ride. They practice the rules known collectively as "tread lightly": leaving no trash, staying on established trails and using only the land they have permission to use.

It's a shame that a few bad apples are being used by the enviro-nazis, greedy landowners and tax-hungry county governments to put an end to many people's favorite form of recreation.

Next time present your many intelligent readers with facts from both sides and let them decide for themselves which way to go.

Stephen Hadley

Protect our water: This article provided an excellent introduction to a great new project and the issues associated with protecting our quickly vanishing natural resources. Spring Creek and its riverbank forests provide benefits for more than just a few landowners. This creek and its forests are part of the ecological infrastructure that supports Galveston Bay. Without this kind of infrastructure we will quickly run out of clean water.

The Spring Creek greenway project is a great example of how we can balance public needs and private property. We need to see more of these projects all over the Houston area if we want to leave our children a legacy worth having. Thanks so much for reporting on projects like this. I hope you have many more opportunities to do so in our area.

John S. Jacob, Ph.D.

Destroying the estuaries: Thank you for your excellent article on ATVs in Spring Creek. Unfortunately, our bayous cannot be all things to all people. Excess sediments can lead to fish kills and can be very destructive to downstream estuaries.

Surely we can find a place for ATV recreation that does not result in degradation of water quality. We are very supportive of the Montgomery County and Harris County plan to set aside floodplain as park land. Thank you for addressing this important issue.

Mary Ellen Whitworth, executive director
Bayou Preservation Association

Smiles From On High

Heaven forbid: What a wonderful article ["The God Squad," by Michael Serazio, September 16]. So many members of the press these days treat Christians only with ridicule. Your article was very fair and brought a smile to my face.

Thank you.

Shawnna Casazza
Edmond, Oklahoma

Lineup double switch: Seeing how the Astros have performed in the playoffs and the clutch since Pemberton's arrival as a spiritual adviser, I can come to only two conclusions:

1. The Astros need to fire Pemberton and get a better conduit to God; and

2. Maybe they should start praying to a different god, as their present choice seems to abandon them whenever He/She is needed the most.

John Royal

Booked, Not Hooked

Festival is fair: I was quoted in your September 16 issue ["Bash-Free Zone," Hair Balls] saying that I didn't expect to be going to "get any kind of prominent place" at next month's Texas Book Festival. Shortly after speaking with writer Sarah Fenske, and much to my pleasant surprise, I found out that I am to be on a four-person panel of authors in the Senate Chamber at noon on October 31. If the book fest is discriminating against muckrakers who write less-than-flattering things about George W. Bush and his cronies, I haven't seen it.

Robert Bryce

Osso Asso

Bones to pick: I am a weekend server at Portofino's Ristorante Italiano ["Osso Buco Me? Osso Buco You!" by Robb Walsh, September 16]. I take great offense to the comments on osso buco because it is, as Alex Salmassi stated, our signature dish.

A lot of our customers are regulars, which should say something about the food. I have heard time and time again from guests about how "fantastic" our osso buco is! I can only imagine how many people do that throughout the week.

I found it very humorous about the reviewer taking the leftover osso buco to the headquarters of Martin Preferred Foods, one of the state's top veal suppliers. Funny, that's the same place we buy our veal from!

As far as the owner's behavior being a little troppo, that's the luxury of being an owner of a top-notch restaurant. Complaints are so few that he doesn't have time to listen to such ignorance. A little advice: Stop making an "ass" of yourself and getting kicked out of restaurants.

And that spiky-haired young waiter who reads the specials with a phony Italian accent? He happens to be one of our best waiters and makes top dollar. Guests love it! And obviously it's working for him.

Get a life, and thanks a bunch for the advertisement. Business will be booming with new customers wanting to try the osso buco.

Michelle Spradlin
League City

Endless quest: As a devoted lover of osso buco, I was very interested in your Portofino review. I've never been to Portofino, but I was interested in the comments by the man at Martin Preferred Foods; I learned something here.

What, in your opinion, are good restaurants for OB in the Houston area? I've had it at Fuad's, Fabio's, Simposio, La Mora, La Trattoria and Pepe's; the best by far was Sorrento. I've had it there three times, and it was excellent each time.

The best I've had anywhere is Valentino's in Santa Monica, California, but unfortunately that's not too convenient. I've asked at Da Marco on two occasions why they don't have it and have gotten an incoherent answer each time.

Jerry Hawsey

Food fun: I always enjoy your reviews of certain restaurants and their dishes. The osso buco review at Portofino Ristorante was just hilarious! I was in stitches. I plan to try a few suggestions on the food and try to get the fake Italian waiter for kicks!

Thank you so much. Loved it.
Annette Battiste

Heave ho: Robb Walsh, you're fired! Alex Salmassi was smart to throw him out, and if more chefs in Houston knew what Walsh looked like, he'd be thrown out of even more places. Maybe Mr. Salmassi can help by releasing a sketch of him. Walsh's reviews are ridiculous, and he is a joke. He should leave Houston and take himself to a place where his smug, superior attitude can be appreciated. Apparently the restaurants in Houston are just not good enough for him.

If Walsh is not an arrogant, rude person, then why is he always getting the boot? Hit the bricks, Robb Walsh!

Caroline Miller

Hidden Havens

The explorer Walsh: I completely disagree with Hayden Greenwade's letter [Letters, "Restaurant Views," September 16] regarding Robb Walsh's choice of restaurants to review. I would much rather learn about a new hole-in-the-wall that I would probably be afraid to try otherwise. Just because you eat it with a plastic fork doesn't mean it can't be darned tasty.

Larry Dockall

Meaty servings: I absolutely love reading Robb Walsh's restaurant reviews, even if I have no burning desire, good review or not, to go to the place being reviewed. He always gives some interesting background on the cuisine, and I especially love it when he takes the dish to go and has it analyzed for the quality of ingredients.

His articulate descriptions of the decor, service (or disservice, as the case may be) and, of course, the food itself are one of the highlights of the Houston Press. Keep up the good work.

John C. O'Donnell

Bayou City Booty

Pirate stash: Tom O'Brien's pirate course is top-notch ["Shiver Me Timbers," Hair Balls, September 9]. I happened upon it, and have really enjoyed his perspective on trade issues.

No need to update 20th- and 21st- century pirates, Tom; we've just got to read Hair Balls, an occasional Houston Business Journal and the financial reports of several businesses up and down Smith, Louisiana, Milam and Travis -- the westside energy cartel -- and keep an eye on Houston's municipal government.

Name withheld by request

Rock Hunters

Bag the best music: Good stuff [Racket, by John Nova Lomax, September 16]!

The past two times have let me down, but in general, weekday lunch hours at Brown Bag Deli (the Barnaby's spin-off on Westheimer near Shepherd) simply rock. The guys have the satellite radio or whatever turned to hard-core classic rock. Not the classic rock you hear on corporate "classic rock" radio, but actual legit great stuff.

Sure, I love the oldies, but to my husband's great consternation, I'm a googly-eyed sucker for classic rock.

The women who work weekends at Brown Bag have their own taste in music, and it isn't mine, but I do like the fact that the music changes depending upon who's working. It suggests independent thought and a genuine love of music. I adore the place. On more than one occasion, I've noticed that my bread is bordering on stale. Anywhere else, I'd complain or stop going back. But the music is just so damn good, and that's too hard to find.

Anyway, no real point, just thanks for a fun column.

Andrea Greer (Mrs. Allen Oldies)


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