Friday, August 20, 2010

Camera, adventurer combine to make a local super hero

Posted: Wednesday, August 18, 2010 8:11 pm

By Jane Howard Lee

I need to find a Superman cape and give it to Bert Marshal.

Baytown Bert seems to be making a difference around his dear city, and I want to thank him for that. And I think he’d look good in a super hero cape. I doubt he’d wear tights with it though but that’s OK. Tights wouldn’t be practical to wear on his wanderings.

Bert, who maintains several websites dedicated primarily to Baytown’s sights and history, is fond of wandering around solo with a camera in hand. He calls himself a lone wolf, but I don’t think he is quite that. He’s got lots of friends and admirers, and on his blogs he talks a lot about going off on adventures with a couple of friends, their kids and, well, enough folks to make it more like a wolf pack than a lone wolf.

Bert loves photography, photojournalism, geocaching and wandering. His wanderings sometimes lead him to see things that not too many people see.

His ability to really look at and really see things makes him more likely to notice problems and unpleasant things. Bert, being Bert, isn’t one to just say, “Well, darn, that was an unpleasant thing to see.”

No, Bert, being Bert, spreads the word and works on getting the unpleasantness removed. He has learned how best to spread the word and how to get a reaction from spreading the word and how to politely approach officials and usually follows the philosophy of getting more bees with honey.

Here are a couple of examples.

Bert has been sending me some photos and information about some problem areas in Baytown. They are areas that he wandered around or through on his wanderings or places that someone told him about, perhaps mentioning problems there and Bert made it a point to wander that way. Bert probably hoped that I would write something about these problems spots and maybe get something done about them and I would have, I swear, but Bert tends to get the job done before I can find time to get on it.

One of the most recent locations to earn Bert’s attention is a spot on Wismer Road.

Bert sent me some e-mails that were copies of missives he sent to appropriate city officials. He sent photos, information, documentation and, having these well-read blogs on his websites and by sending copies of the e-mails to people whose names were then listed on the e-mails as having received copies, let it be known to whoever was interested that they (the city officials) were not the only ones aware of the problem. Of course, that means people knew their reactions would be observed.

City officials jumped in and investigated though I am sure they would have done so even if they hadn’t had that overwhelming sense of being watched.

They said the nasty site looked a lot worse than it was ... no chemicals, no leaky stuff, no health hazards other than a mosquito-breeding murky ugly, somewhat trashy bit of land and water.

A beaver dam created part of the problem, they said, and that was quickly removed and the beavers urged to relocate. The water flowed again.

Well, that nasty, nasty looking spot out on Wismer Road has now been cleaned up. Bert sent round an e-mail applauding the city’s quick action to accomplish that and posted before and after photos.

He applauds the city, but I’ve got to throw in some clapping for Bert.

Friend Bert also has tackled what appeared to be some very poor drainage at the Baytown Bark Park and a situation in Pelly Park on Main Street where a rusty, dilapidated pump jack poses a hazard (once fenced to keep kids out, that fence is down and just made for more metal for someone to trip on or get hurt on) and is an eyesore to say the least.

With Bert on the case, that situation is bound to change.

So thanks to Bert, who is a great community watch dog, and I think he should add that term to that list he uses to describe himself (I had to look up philomath, Bert) on his web pages and blogs.

Good job, Bert, from your fellow philomath friend.

You can visit Baytown Bert’s websites at, and at

 Jane Howard Lee is a reporter at the Baytown Sun.

* Giant Superman compliments of Barbara Pugh (friend of BB and uber-trickster)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pelly Park on Main Street Pump Jack updater 8-17-2010

This old pump jack sets right in Pelly Park and is a safety hazard to children.  I've asked the city to take action to have it fenced off properly, secured and/or removed as soon as possible.

Wisner Road update- The Dead Zone - 8-17-2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

Baytown Bark Park watch - updater

Hiya -- I ran across your GeoCache blog when searching for some GPS info. That led me to your Blog where I came across your notes about the Baytown Bark Park. Which led me to stopping for a few minutes while at work to write this note--

Quick thanks for taking time to fiddle wihth our City officials about the Bark Park. We get out there several times a week with our Boxer pup, Jaxon when weather and water levels permit.

Ron & Robin
I am not finished yet with this park and others. Although Scott Johnson does a great job overseeing the parks, our city has a sad history of not keeping improvements up to the initial standards. Plus, each season brings new challenges and commitments for the city and those things take up resources.  I understand all of this and am patient.

I want to see for myself the spray schedule for fleas and I want it posted outside the park at least quarterly.  I also want the trails raised so they do not flood and some sort of irrigation system to make sure the trees grow.

I am hoping and praying lighting will be installed inside the dog park.  Wouldn't that be awesome?

I would appreciate it if you and yours send me email when you see anything of interest.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wismer Drive update!

From: Mike Lester via Garry Brumback

Garry just a quick update; as indicated, the beaver dam was removed last Friday and the Public Works crews are working today to ‘shore up’ the retaining wall of the pond on the west side along the road side ditch where it failed and flooded the ditch. After this is complete they (PW’s) plan to improve the drainage slope within the main ditch and install a small ‘swale’ from the east side dead zone to the drainage ditch along Hwy 146. I have to commend Darryl’s crews for their quick action and solid work to address this issue.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Pelly Park on Main Street Pump Jack

I was in Pelly Park on Main Street the other day and there is a derelict pump jack in this park that I suspect is a safety hazard. It is partially dismantled, the fence is down and I am assuming it would be a magnet for an accident. What can be done to get this thing removed and who is the responsible party?

I have no idea how this pump jack could have missed the attention of our city councilman and staff.  I have appealed to City Councilman Scott Sheley and the city officials for rectification.

First reply:
Bert, Thanks for raising the concern. This oil field equipment which is on private property falls under primary regulation by the Texas Railroad Commission. Oil field regulations are coordinated by Fire Marshal Bernard Olive. We have asked Chief Olive to check the site and coordinate with the RRC to get it properly secured or preferably removed and cleaned up. We have also involved our Health Department from a care-of-premises/safety perspective. We will keep you apprised of our progress.  Thanks again.

Bob Leiper
Deputy City Manager
City of Baytown, TX

Second reply:
Bert thanks for reporting this to us, citizens like yourself help us catch things like this. I take pride in my district and OUR wonderful community. It's people like you who care though that report things that make it happen that much faster. Your closing line is harsh Bert and I want you to know that I can't see and do all things but when citizens help me I welcome their help and usually get it reported immediately, thanks for the concern about the safety issue.
Scott Sheley
Councilman District 2

Friday, August 06, 2010

Wismer Drive Eyesore resolved!

From Mike Lester via Garry Brumback:
I conducted an “on-site” inspection this morning with Gerardo Ruiz, Storm Water Phase II Coordinator and Manuel Razo, Street Maintenance Supervisor, the following is what was determined during the inspection.

Location: Wismer Road from Old Alexander to HWY 146:

 -  Approximately half way down on the ‘west’ side of Wismer the retaining wall for the Retention Pond (on private property) has failed and the pond has drained into the road side drainage (water is about 3-5 feet deep)

- Approximately 2/3 of the way down on the ‘east’ side of Wismer is the “Dead Zone” area reported by Mr. Marshall, this area routinely holds water and periodically receives complaints concerning standing water, pollution and poor drainage

- At the intersection of Wismer / Hwy 146 on the ‘west’ side the road side drainage ditch has been “dammed” by beavers, this has caused the water in the road side ditch to hold the 3-5 feet of water depth and subsequently causing the water to ‘backflow’ through the underground drainage pipe to the ‘east’ side “Dead Zone” elevating the water depth to about 6 to 18 inches, this pond area is supporting minnows, frogs, at least one 5 foot snake and a couple of turtles, this aquatic life would be considered natural mosquito control and was confirmed by no indication of mosquito larvae or pupae alone the side of the pond area

- there are at least two beavers involved and they are probably residing in both the ‘retention pond’ area and the “Dead Zone” area based on food sources

- Please note that the beavers would not dam the area if the water or the area was ‘polluted’ the animals are very particular with their environment
-Planned action to resolve the immediate standing water issue and provide a long term solution to the drainage in the area:

- the beaver dam will be removed today (Friday, 08/06/10) by Public Works crews with a backhoe, this will allow the area to drain

- the retaining wall on the road side ditch will be repaired with reserve riprap by PW crews next week to insure the integrity of the road side drainage ditch

- the ‘west side’ road side drainage will be reviewed and maintained (cleaned up) as necessary next week by PW

- the ‘east side’ drainage will be improved in the area of the ”Dead Zone” to insure the area will properly drain to the drainage inlets in the future.

Again the area is a natural water holding area and the dead trees are indicative of both long term standing water and salt water poisoning from years past.  The Health Dept. has had a number of complaints over the last 10 years related to the Oil Company located near Old Alexander and Wismer but to date has never been able to confirm any releases that would have impacted the above area.

 Please advise if additional information is needed or if additional action should be taken.

 Also note that the quick actions to resolve this issue is being done by the Public Works Dept. thanks to Daryl’s “Get it done” philosophy.

 -  Thank you city of Baytown!

Wismer Drive Eyesore and Health Hazard Site

There is a piece of property on Wismer Drive between Business SH-146 and Alexander Drive that looks like a cross between a swamp and a hazardous waste site.  Standing water, animal bones, dead trees and millions of mosquitoes inhabit this dead zone, as a friend has labeled it.  It stinks also.  It seriously stinks and since the area has no reason to stop and look, no one stops for a look.

The area has become a topic of discussion on local crime-fighting web forum, of which I am a long time member.  I’ve taken the liberty to write the city government, especially district 6 Councilman, David McCartney and the mayor to find out what can be done to remediate this area.

In a letter in response to a complaint about this property, Storm Water Coordinator for the city of Baytown, Gerardo V. Ruiz, along with Mr. Carroll Mayfield, from the Railroad Commission of Texas (oil field regulators) and Mr. Tom Fereday, representative for Otex Resources, the oil field property owner wrote this about the area:

“I inspected the oil wells and storage tanks for signs of a recent oil spill or leak but found no evidence of such. Otex Resources does not own the land at the intersection of Wismer and South Highway 146, but it too had no evidence of a recent oil spill. The conditions that are found at that property appear to be a result of the topography of the land and not a result of a recent incident. According to Mr. Carroll, the loss of vegetation on the site appears to be from an influx of salt water many years ago.

However, Mr. Fereday expressed the desire to find the lot owner and work with him or her to clean up the area and achieve a permanent fix that will allow the property to drain properly and not hold water.

The property is not ascetically pleasing but no major environmental health violations exist at this time. The standing water does not appear to contain any crude oil and it is not breeding mosquitoes. I will have our public works department drainage division inspect the storm drains in the immediate area to ensure that they are not obstructed and functioning correctly. Clear storm drains may help reduce the quantity of standing water in the area. I will follow up with Otex Resources about the cleanup efforts and will provide updates as they become available.”

I was deep into this area this past May, looking for a geocache of all things and it is the nastiest place in Baytown.  I came home and washed my clothes and tennis shoes afterward and I made a video tape of the heavy mosquito activity.  The area is indeed a breeding ground for mosquitoes and thus a significant health hazard.

Mr. Ruiz’s statement “but no major environmental health violations exist at this time. The standing water does not appear to contain any crude oil and it is not breeding mosquitoes.” Although accurate at their visit is inaccurate as I have video proof and photos.

I am appealing to our city government and District 6 councilman Mr. McCartney in particular, to rectify this situation.  Because of the stagnant surface water, mosquito breeding site, and rotting debris, it poses a serious health and safety issue and needs clear and up to date responses to the public in general.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Bark Park in Baytown Goes Down Hill in Less Than a Year.

It took less a year before the wonderful dog park looked like it was old.  Blame it on perpetual water leaks, excessive rainfall, lower than grade trails, and mosquitoes which cause people to shun the park and that is a real shame, as it has so much potential.

My Bride and I visit the park 4-5 times per week and we have taken to walking our dogs on the trails through the woods instead, as they are well-maintained.  The dog park trail has weeds growing through the trail itself and even though it is dray as a bone on all the outer trails, water perpetually stands at the entrance and on lower areas inside the fenced park.

Last December 9th, I wrote Parks Superintendent Scott Johnson and appealed to raise the level of the trails inside the Bark Park and he wrote: “We will add when we can get in without tearing everything up”.

February 8th, I again wrote: “Dog Park: My Bride and I took our two little doggies to the Park  today and it is perfect in almost every way, except the water across the paths and the mud holes in front of the Poo drop off points.  I realize a large dump truck of gravel would leave giant ruts, but can't something on a smaller scale be done until dry weather?  I have a feeling there is a lot of grumbling going on behind the scenes over this, but most people are silent.  We bathed both dogs when we got home. BTW, both sides (small and large) have flooded areas of trail and mud is real bad at both entrances”.

Scott Johnson wrote back: “Bert, the dog park is no different from most of all our parks right now, a big mud hole.  We will place additional crushed granite on the trail when we can get in without tearing everything up.  Sorry for the inconvenience.  (We really could use a month of dry weather)”.

On March 4th, I wrote City Manager Garry Brumback and appealed about the wet entrances: “…the dog park is in bad shape.  It looks like a water leak”.

Kylie Wilson repaired it immediately and here is his response: “Garry - it was the irrigation causing the excess and standing water.  Tony got the water pumped out and checked the timer.  They will keep watching it to make sure there are no other issues. But as of now it is working properly again”.

On July 22nd, once again a water leak was discovered by myself and reported: “There appears to be a bad leak at the back of the dog park, close to the trail.  Water is pouring into Cary Bayou”.

Deputy City Manager Bob Leiper responds: “I had the dispatcher call out the overtime crew to check the leak and make whatever emergency repairs are appropriate”. “Thanks for the heads-up. It was a 2” line that had pulled apart. It was repaired last night”.

August 1st, I again appeal to city management after discovering all trails in the entire park are dry except the once again flooded entrance and trails at the dog park: “there is a real problem at the dog park that is not being addressed, in my opinion.

I've written and written about the low trails, which flood any time it rains, the standing water at the entrance and the numerous water leaks which are reoccurring. This morning I walked my dogs through the whole Jenkins park trails complex and only found one small area with water beside the trail, then I came to Bark Park and it was so wet, I wouldn't take my dogs inside for more than a couple of photos.

I suggest a stricter schedule of grass cutting, weeds kept off the trail with herbicide and a regular spray schedule for fleas should be posted.

May I also suggest another dog poo station closer to the parking lot?  The dogs get one whiff and they immediately squat.

Also, is the bark park totally finished or is more to be added as time passes?  Otherwise, I love our parks and the great job I see of keeping them maintained”.

Bob Leiper, who always punctual and on top of things writes back: “Thanks for your comments. The massive amounts of rainfall have impacted our mowing schedules, not to mention accelerated growth of the grass. We are working hard to catch up. We also know that we need to work on the drainage issues and chase down all the water leaks. Unfortunately the limitations of budget and staff, coupled with the demands of the July 4th event and preparation of the Pirates Bay Family Aquatic Center make it even more challenging.

We are working on the mowing and Scott’s folks will look at adding another poo station. Please continue to let me know when you see water leaks and we’ll work the low spots in the trail as quickly as we can.

It is our plan to continue to add features to Jenkins Park, including the dog park, as funds and time allow. I don’t believe there are specific plans at this time due to budget constraints, both locally and the lack of State grant programs.

We appreciate your comments and suggestions and I know we both want the same thing: a better Baytown. Thanks”.

If you, the reader would like to see a well-maintained Bark Park, please by all means voice your opinion on this subject.  Our city leaders have an open door policy and they need to hear what is important and will welcome your response.

Idiot Criminal Gangbanger Tags Jenkins Park

Some idiot, moron and imbecile spray painted gang related graffiti all over the dugouts at Walter Jenkins Park in the last 24 hours.  CLAN 17 Pure Overdose – Plant Life.  I wish they would overdose and plant themselves, rather than attempt to destroy public property.

This is one more reason I support corporal punishment for criminal mischief and violent crime.  Give them a Singapore sling, rattan style.

It is my true desire that people who commit these acts of abasement would straighten up, fly right and take responsibility for their actions, rather than drop dead, but I do not see that happening any time soon.  I’ve sent this photo to BPD and city management this morning and they will get it covered up, I’m sure.

Anyone who thinks joining a gang is a cool thing is destined to fail in society.  If you have knowledge of this gang or this graffiti, please contact Capt. Alford of the Baytown Police Department at (281) 422-8371.

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