Recently while once again hiking the Goose Creek Trail, I made my way to the top of the Fred Hartman Bridge, on the Hog Island side of the Houston Ship Channel. While enjoying the expansive and elevated view, I looked downward and what isn’t apparent to motorists, is a winding dirt road. On the opposite side of the bridge, the road splits and envelopes two giant retaining ponds.
By the way, folks repeatedly ask me about my safety and the legality of walking across the Fred Hartman Bridge and I tell them the truth; it is scary to have cars going past you at seventy-plus miles per hour, with no place to avoid being ran over, but perfectly legal to walk across the bridge. You can’t park on the bridge, but you can ride a bike or hike across it. I'm willing to take my chances up there, but use your own best judgment.
Seeing the road below the bridge, I thought how wonderful this would be for Exxon-Mobil to open it for jogging and cycling. It is a beautiful ready-made trail, meandering along the ship channel and Black Duck Bay, which a runner, hiker or bike rider could enjoy. I would love to expand my hiking distance and walk it. Birders, binoculars in hand, would have yet another place to observe the many shore birds our area affords.
Access to the roads would necessitate the building of a bridge to span the divided area that used to lead to the Baytown/La Porte tunnel. The Bayland Park parking lot could be used as a staging area for those who wished to use the new trail.
The more I thought about this possibility, the more excited I became, so much so, that I pecked off an email to City Manager Garry Brumback and our honorable mayor, Stephen DonCarlos. I told them I thought it would be a wonderful extension of the Goose Creek Trail, maybe as much as 5 miles.
That very day Mr. Brumback responded: "I think this is worthy of asking ExxonMobil. I am happy to put the question to them; as long as everyone understands that this is not City property and that we are not resourced to police or maintain it should ExxonMobil agree to open it up. Would a citizens group be willing to adopt it and be responsible for its upkeep"? Our Mayor also agreed it was worth looking into.
I assured Mr. Brumback that I would take on the project of raising support from local biking and running clubs, if ExxonMobil agreed to open the trail for us.
Within a few days I was contacted via telephone by ExxonMobil Human Relations person, Russ Roberts to discuss the possibility of making this project a reality and was told he would look into it and get back with me. He also pointed out that the wheels of decision making move very slowly on community projects commitment and to be patient while they study the impact and liability issues concerning opening it up to the public.
That was about a month ago and although I am patient, I couldn't keep from taking yet another hike on the Goose Creek Trail and this time walking up the opposite side (the side we use to go to La Porte) and taking a closer look at the improved dirt roads on the refinery side of the bridge. What I saw and photographed is an aerial view of beautiful dirt roads which wander around the giant ponds, Black Duck Bay and the Houston Ship Channel and collectively cover maybe as much as 5 or 6 wonderful miles.
This trail, if opened to the public by ExxonMobil, would draw riders, birding groups and joggers from the entire South East Texas area, as a favorite place to train, run, jog, hike, cycle and stage foot and bicycle races. It could be a major plus to our community; major as in something to brag about and not just for ExxonMobil, but our city and populace also. ExxonMobil could use this as a giant public relations and local community coup and rightly so. This could just be the shot in the arm the marina area needs to realize expansion also.
Local running clubs and cycle groups could adopt portions of the trail for routine clean up and ExxonMobil's roving patrol could close access at dusk and open it at dawn. It would also be very nice of them to provide occasional receptacles for removal of trash and debris picked-up by citizens and the groups charged with maintaining the cleanliness of the trail.
While security on the trail would certainly be an issue, citizens who hike, ride and jog would take the same precautions they do on any other trail or county road. Access to the trail could be accomplished by parking at Bayland Park and the city could improve the cement barrier feeder road portion to accommodate foot and bike traffic.
The Black Duck Bay Trail System combined with the Goose Creek Trail could effectively give Baytown a ten mile (estimated) trail and it would be a win-win for all concerned.
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