Swedish Developer May 86 Lake Thicket and Its Wildlife

In February, a Swedish development and construction company named Skanska snatched up the vacant ARCO building at 15375 Memorial Drive and some of the infrastructure surrounding Lake Thicket, which is home to armadillos, opossums and migratory birds such as Canadian geese.

"They told us that they were going to develop it for both high-rise office buildings and rental housing units," says Memorial Thicket subdivision resident and Save Lake Thicket coalition member Phil Richardson. "When we started talking with them before February, it was with the understanding that they would retain Lake Thicket as part of the development.

"In May, we started hearing that not only was it unlikely that they were going to keep the lake, but they were proceeding to get rid of all of the wildlife from the area, too," adds Richardson.

Even though lake conditions have deteriorated since ARCO abandoned its Energy Corridor digs in 2009, it's still not cool with area dwellers that the European firm, which has branches all over the States, keeps calling the body of water a "retention pond."

Since that's pretty much fighting words to people that love the lake, protests followed. As a result, Lake Thicket has been saved...for maybe just a few more months.

"There are no plans to drain the pond in the immediate future," writes Jessica Murray of Skanska. "We are still very much in the early phases of planning and will not make any determination on the pond until plans have been finalized."

Oooooh. She said the p-word. Twice.

In June or July, the old ARCO site will be leveled while a Lake Thicket game plan is determined. In the meantime, Richardson remains concerned about what could happen if the lake is drained and filled.

"There are wetlands around the lake that could be destroyed," he says. "Plus the lake holds a heck of a lot of water, especially when you have downpours like in [April] 2009. If they fill it in, that sink for rainwater is gone."

Richardson explains that the Memorial Thicket subdivision bit itself in the backside in 1987 when they traded ownership of the lake with ARCO in exchange for ten housing lots, which means that the new owners can do whatever they want.

"The agreement said that residents could continue using the lake," says Richardson. "It was a good deal until it expired after 15 years.

"Now we don't have direct control over it anymore. We should have made it 50 or 100 years. Now we're in this dilemma that we're trying to work through."

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Steve Jansen is a contributing writer for the Houston Press.
Contact: Steve Jansen