Sunday, May 8, 2011

Wildlife and Values of The Woodlands

Some people say trees are the most prized asset of The Woodlands Texas. What about the wildlife under the canopy of the trees? Slowly but surely, our wildlife is disappearing. Is it not an asset? If The Woodlands is to retain its value, in my opinion, the wildlife must remain. What is our strategy? I am guessing on this, because I have never heard any statement to the contrary. We have no strategy. We have icons to recognize the wildlife but why is the wildlife seemingly ignored in everything we do? We remove and displace the wildlife.

White Tail Deer in Village of Cochran's Crossing

Under the canopy of our forest once lived a multitude and variety of deer, opossum, coyote, tree rat, beaver, snake, lizards, turtles, birds, armadillo, raccoon, tortoise, butterfly, and I am sure a host of other creatures. Birds of prey such as the Bald Eagle still lives here, but its stay is likely imperiled by development. We have buzzards and hawks as well. The diversity was huge but is dropping as forests are displaced by homes and businesses - basically as the development company sells its assets.

Squirrels in Village of Indian Springs
Is our primary value system based on the dollar or on the quality of what we experience and see on a day-to-day basis? Maybe we are too focussed on the traditional concept of a community instead of what this community has always been designed to be. Tourism is now a big priority as part of our value system. That translates to the dollar being extremely important in our value system.  I contend that the two (economics and our natural state) should be considered in tandem. As an example, it has been rumored that there is a second eagle's nest in The Woodlands, but that information comes from the development company. I have never seen it. What I truly know exists is an eagle's nest in the land that the development company plans to develop. That is under the radar of the development company now.

Skink in Village of Indian Springs
What are the opportunities in Town Center? If we want tourism in Town Center, why is not the development company trying to leverage our natural state? This is the age of ecological preservation. Right now Town Center offers nothing about The Woodlands ecology and everything about shopping and the traditional vision of economic development. Imagine! We have a Koi garden instead of a protected wildlife area in Town Center. We have had the key to The Woodlands right under the noses of the development company. Where is a vision of Town Center that integrates the existing values of the community into it? We could have deer on the shore of the lake, wild flowers and other creatures on the same shore. We could have a video of the eagle's nest on every boat in the waterway at a relatively low cost, one which emphasizes the beauty of The Woodlands, even showing a live CAM of the eagle's nest. Why isn't the development company being a part of the community instead of trying to make the community something it was never envisioned to be? Instead, we have introduced bars for night life here and crime. Surely we could have more creative goals than what we have. Don't you think?

Opossum in Village of Indian Springs
Who wants a community to talk about the way it was instead of the way it is? Let's get back into thinking we are a forest, not just a few trees with a little nightlife and valet parking. What are we offering that cannot be easily trumped by competitors?  Water taxis? The Houston area will have alternatives in the future more attractive than ours. You can build them anywhere. Maybe the red riders on horses is the key. Maybe it makes it look like we are in Canada. I think not; they are there to make us be something we are not, a ploy for plastic tourism that is easily replicated elsewhere. Where is our future? Our uniqueness is the forest, but we are destroying it. Yet our leaders take us right into the foray of disaster. Leadership should be looking at potential competition and leveraging what we have, so we move forward, not what the development company envisions for us. Is it too late? Maybe, maybe not.
Bald Eagle in Town Center
  It seems to me the opportunities are endless but gradually fading away. Is that the ultimate goal we seek to fulfill?

1 comment:

indianspringsguy said...

From an email of a reader who lives in The Woodlands, by her consent:
I liked your article about wildlife and tourism in The Woodlands and have been thinking the same thing. Anyone can build a mall, boats or concert venues. There will always be someone building them bigger and better. People can get the same stores, restaurants and entertainment across town. If one wants tourism, one has to look past the obvious. What will draw people is something unique for not only adults but also children -- a real place to escape, entertain and learn. Not a place to endure the same traffic and stores that they have near home. Not everyone considers shopping and traffic an escape. I wouldn't go to San Antonio to go to the mall.

Galveston has its beaches, San Antonio has its river walk (ours can never compete), Amarillo has the Palo Duro Canyon, Austin has Lake Travis and its music, Hot Springs has its lakes, antique stores and historical buildings. Each of these cities have taken the natural elements they possess, added other offerings (other than malls) to make them attractive for tourism.

I read about communities who actually understand the value of these things and they are building bike paths along creeks and old railroad tracks where tourists can go to escape the city and enjoy something that they cannot get near their home -- silence, wildlife and nature. It is amazing that people here do not understand the value of what they have or had. I always think of the old Joni Mitchell song: ". . . you don't know what you got 'til its gone. They've paved paradise and put up a parking lot." That should be the theme song for The Woodlands