Petition Urges Killing Plan to Cut Down Forest in Section of Terry Hershey Park

Terry Hershey Park is known for its lush wooded areas and the trails that lace through them. But now some locals are worried that it won't stay that way after the Harris County Commissioners Court authorized a study of the area that points toward the creation of a detention basin for the water downstream of Buffalo Bayou.

"It's one of the few areas where there's natural surface trail through a wooded area," Bill Rustam, a lawyer who lives in the area, said. "Once you get in there, it blocks out the sounds of the traffic, and it's a little piece of heaven in the concrete jungle we're surrounded by."

Last week, Rustam and the other members of Save Our Forest, a group organized against the detention, got together an online petition with more than 1,500 signatures to try to persuade the Commissioners Court not to authorize a $250,000 engineering study on a stretch of land from Eldridge Parkway to Wilcrest in Terry Hershey Park.

Critics of the study claim that it is the first step in a project that will deforest the entire section of the park between Eldridge and Wilcrest. The study, approved by the court Tuesday, will be taking a survey of the trees and conditions in the area for a detention basin, Pct. 3 Commissioner Steve Radack said.

"This is an effort by the county to analyze and make a plan. That way when we do make plans for more detention, we'll know where the trees are, where the good trees are and where the ones that are less desirable are located," Radack said. Radack noted that the outcry from the people around this section of Terry Hershey Park is a lot like the response from those living on the north side when they announced they were putting in detention there. "There are trails and hundreds of people come out of the suburbs to use them," he said. Radack said that flooding, always an issue, will just get worse as the City of Houston allows more density in development.

Paul Kliebert, another member of Save Our Forest, argued that while flooding is a problem, there are other places for the water to go that won't require chopping down trees in this section of the park the way the county did when it put in detention on the north side. Kliebert said the group has urged Harris County and the city of Houston to study and purchase the Clodine Regional Detention Basin in Fort Bend County instead of the park.

"There are areas suitable for drainage out there, but the county isn't interested," Kliebert said. "They're doing everything behind closed doors."

Radack said he understood where people were coming from, but the county will have to find a place for the water to go. "We're listening to people, but this is just a part of government. It's potentially a change and people don't want to see it," Radack said.

The petition had 3,547 signatures as of Friday evening.

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