Saturday, March 20, 2010

Perspective from a visitor

I had the privilege to meet a couple from southern California the other day, who come to The Woodlands regularly. Their observations were not surprising. That couple was willing to share their thoughts about our community and its future. What they like most about this community is the integrated forest. It was no surprise to me to hear "the biggest concern we have is that the forest continues to dwindle. There are dead trees and not as many visible trees as last year. Each year we see this reducing trend. We are afraid to think what this place will be in 20 years." Our community is on the decline in this respect. I share this concern expressed by these visitors, but we can help do something about it.   

We need a strong program to maintain and rebuild the forest. Money is spent on clearing the forest, building up the dirt, concrete and assets on that concrete. Each time we pour more concrete, there is less water absorbed into the ground to sustain tree life. Valued trees are removed to provide the space for that concrete. Fortunately over the years, our paths were designed to remove as few trees as possible.  Still, we lost trees to have that amenity. Now we are faced with mother nature's threats, as well as our own. Where is our forest policy to mitigate the risk of drought and insect infestation? Over the years, you and I both have witnessed many trees lost near our homes to both.

Where is our reforestation plan for the western portion of the community, where the development company removed so many trees in development? We continue to move ahead towards a place among communities that could eventually lose its uniqueness and draw. If we become like every other community, we have failed. It takes 10 years to have 20-foot trees if planted from seedlings and there is plenty of sunlight and water to feed them. We lose many trees to drought and insects now. The Waterway is great, but the continued primary focus on it must also be weighed with other priorities. The real draw to this community in my estimation is the forest look to the community, which only exists in the eastern part. Some amenities such as a boat ride in the Waterway is not a great attraction, yet we have put a lot of money into it and continue to support it in the budget. A mini train ride along the Waterway, like Herman Park would probably have been more effective and could still be. Some people want us to be another San Antonio river walk, but we will never be that. That is unique to them. We are unique in a different way. Visitors can catch a glimpse of an Eagle when near or on Lake Woodlands, enjoy the wooded landscape along the lake and walk through the Town Center under the trees. That is The Woodlands. Are we replacing trees? In a few places yes. In most places, no, at least not in an organized way.

The Woodlands forest is a place to be protected and managed like other assets. We are doing some good things, but the view from a repeat visitor's perspective is very important to the continued economic health of this community. I hope you can see our prized community the way these two people see it. We live here and have the power to do something about it. Do we need a revolutionary approach? Probably not. Just a good 10-year plan with an appropriate budget to maintain and grow the forest. The Township board will have only seven positions governing The Woodlands, beginning after the May election. You need a interested person on that board looking after your forest.

1 comment:

Scott said...

I am afraid that we need to move forward on this without expecting any help from the Township "leaders." It will be up to the residents to plant, establish, and expand the trees, much like many residents have taken over care of the middle areas of the cul-de-sacs in the older villages. Anyone interested in starting a Trees-For-Houston type organization for The Woodlands?