A Houston developer has taken responsibility for the clear-cutting of a large swath of public park property in the Heights.
Bill Workman told Hair Balls that a contractor affiliated with the development of seven townhomes along Wrightwood Street, abutting Woodland Park, mistakenly razed three-quarters of an acre in the city's second-oldest public park.
Workman said the contractor was hired to grade privately owned property, adding, "Personally, I'm very devastated by that and embarrassed by that, because I'm the guy responsible."
He said he's spoken with city officials and members of the nonprofit Friends of Woodland Park.
Officials are "in the process of telling us specifically what they will expect for us to do, and I can tell you with no uncertainty that we will follow their recommendation to the letter," Workman said.
A Houston Parks and Recreation Department press release on Wednesday stated, "Assessment of the damage to the park is under way. Preliminary findings are that vegetation has been damaged or removed from approximately 3/4 of an acre, including some healthy trees, and replanting and reforestation will be necessary. Erosion control and possible regrading of the site may be required."
Friends of Woodland Park member Pat Rutledge confirmed that Workman and others associated with the development have reached out to them.
"They're trying to...get in front of this problem that they created. To that, we give them credit," Rutledge said. "They assumed responsibility immediately; for that, we give them credit. They've been professional about it."
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Houston City Councilman Ed Gonzalez, who represents the district containing the park, stated in an e-mail that he received a complaint about the situation Monday night and that "it is a high priority for my office....As an avid supporter of the efforts of the Friends of Woodland Park, I too am outraged to hear of the clear-cutting that took place and am thankful for the vigilance of our community."
Workman, who said he and one of his business partners plan to live in two of the homes, said this was the first time he'd been involved in home development. He said he's been a member of Friends of Woodland Park for over a year.
"I plan to live there. I'm devastated by it. And living here all my life, I understand the...lack of our public parks, I understand the importance of them, I understand how much the city's done in other areas -- it's been fabulous. And for this to happen under my watch is, like I said -- it's an embarrassment, it's devastating. I'm heartbroken, just like everybody who's contacted me about it."
We hope Workman's sincere -- it sounds like he is. We asked him for the name of the contractor, but he declined -- perhaps because he doesn't want to throw the dude under the bus. We're not exactly sure how a contractor could make such an enormous mistake, but it's absolutely refreshing to encounter someone who refuses to pass the buck.