The answer is neither. Baytown, Texas is any town USA. A casual look around verifies it is not Jackson Hole, Wyoming or the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s flat Texas Gulf Coast gumbo lined with Chinese Tallow, Chinaberry, Pines, Cottonwood, and Bois D’Arc trees. Bayous, creeks, streams and gullies crisscross Old Baytown, Pelly, Wooster, Cedar Bayou, and Goose Creek which we now call the City of Baytown. Most of them are muddy, reflecting the estuary action of the gulf and fresh water.
Oleander, Crepe Myrtle, blooming Ligustrum shrubs, salt grass and a myriad of wild flowers give Baytown a splash of color outside of the normal amount of billboards, cars and houses.
On the west side of Baytown is the giant Exxon complex. Through the middle is Garth road; a crowded street during the workweek, like almost any active city anywhere. Interstate 10 is to the north and handles an enormous amount of traffic. To the south of Baytown are State highway/business 146 and the giant Fred Hartman Bridge. All around us is what some refer to as “dirty bay”.
A few knowledgeable former and current Baytownians have recently pointed out how wrong I am to brag about Baytown’s beauty. They say the city is 90% not worth staying in and insist it is dirty, ugly, old, decrepit, stinky, ran-down, going nowhere, uninteresting and one group of people have put up a web site and a giant sign on Decker and Goose Creek entitled ‘Bored in Baytown – You know you are’. Folks tell me I only see what I want to see and not what this town really is.
Maybe they are correct. Maybe I am deceived. Maybe I have on dark, dark rose-colored glasses. Maybe the many photographs I’ve taken around Baytown are carefully cropped to exclude the hideousness that is really staring me in the lens. Maybe I am simply seeing the good in Baytown.
If I, as a rational human being, can find a diamond in a block of coal, then I am a man most satisfied. Peace and contentment with my surroundings is worth more than a hundred trips to Disneyworld, Pensacola beach, Jackson Hole, Wyoming or the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. However, in our hustle and bustle life, most of us only see Baytown out the window of our car and that, my friend, is where I have the advantage over the naysayers. Ride your bicycle, take a walk, park that truck, or car and you will see a very different view, I promise. Take your camera along and you will quickly see many interesting and pleasant sites.
If all you see in Baytown is old buildings, a disappointing Mall, billboards, crowded Garth Road and the Exxon complex, I have an answer for you. Get off the main drag and hop on your bike. Hike the Goose Creek Stream Trail, or Jenkins Park trail. Go down to Bayland Park and launch your boat and take a cruise up Goose Creek or Cedar Bayou (you might just see an alligator!). Then there is the Baytown Nature Center!
Yes, I am guilty of only seeing what I want to see. I see a city that swells to 120,000 people 5 days a week, but I see it the same way I see the Houston metropolis. I see the rest of the city as trees, flowers, bodies of water, wildlife, friendly neighbors and blue cloud filled skies.
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