Friday, September 27, 2013

The looming Baytown metropolis

Get ready for Baytown to surge to 200,000 people over the next five years folks. What started out as a laid-back Tri-city community of Pelly, Baytown and Goose Creek is rapidly becoming a bustling metropolis, and oil fracking is to blame, if blame is levied. I see what is happening as a positive. Cars, trucks and motorcycles are on our streets at all hours of the day and night, and based on what one of our police lieutenants told me recently, we are not ready for the expansion. How could we be?

With the Exxon and Chevron Phillips expansions in progress, they will draw tens of thousands of workers to our city, and due to the length of the work commitment, most will bring their families. We have three new elementary schools popping up (expect new school zones of SH-146 out Pinehurst way and another on North Main street, which will impede traffic flow), and there is a new steel mill coming to the Beach City area, most likely at the U.S. Steel location. Kiwi Golf is opening a production facility here. There is the Buc-ee’s and the new super Wal-mart at Highway 146 and Interstate 10 to bring jobs and more people and cars/trucks to our streets. I predict the traffic jam will be so bad here that the state will build an overpass over I-10 that will run for a number of miles dumping traffic out past Maranatha Temple.

 The good side is we have jobs, lots of jobs, and I welcome this with a big toothy grin – well with what teeth I still have anyway. After 36 years in the petrochemical field, I never thought I would see such a boom in this arena. I suspected it, however, and a couple years ago foretold the need for skilled workers when Goose Creek Memorial was being built. I wrote here in The Baytown Sun in my old column – yes, I am back – that we should seriously consider converting Robert E. Lee High School into a top notch vo-tech school to prepare our graduates to enter the work force and unfortunately, this is the bad side of the expansion. We don’t have the local manpower to staff these great jobs. We are at a minimum two years behind, and many of these great jobs won’t go to our young graduates but to people flocking here from the Virgin Islands, Detroit or Timbuktu, and they will most likely not leave.

When I pushed for a vo-tech, all everyone wanted to talk about was the school colors and the football team. So, we continued to pump out graduates, or not – with cookie-cutter diplomas which basically prepared them to think alike and exit high school with the skills to get a job working the counter at a fast food restaurant, or a few went off to college and became what their parents dreamed of, right? For most, the answer was no. They languished and years later are still without money-making skills. Well, now we need those high school grads with those hands-on skills and they are nowhere to be found because we didn’t properly prepare them for the real working world. Sure, Lee College and San Jac offer a two-year program to qualify people to become process technicians, I understand that. But what about electricians, pipe-fitters, welders, insulators, rod-busters, riggers, plumbers, instrument technicians, carpenters, heavy equipment operators, etc, who could have graduated from one of our high schools with the needed skills? It’s not too late to amp up our vo-tech high school programs, folks. It just takes forward paradigm-breaking thinking. It will take people on our school board to break free of the current malaise and get a curriculum that will teach our young generation to work …

Oops, isn’t work a four-letter word these days? It appears to be to many of us gray heads who began working at 13 and 14 years of age and never looked to anyone for assistance. Oh my, this is so controversial, I almost can’t write it without feeling there will be a terrible backlash. But it’s true just the same, and I will bring it out in the open. After all, I bought my first car at the ripe age of 15 after working for two years. I also bought my first radio, and stereo and television … We have a terrific future here in Baytown, both in our city’s development and the sustainable job market. We, as Baytonians, need to take advantage of it and prepare our kids to get a piece of the pie. I am close to retirement and I have no plans to move away, but I do care that our city “moves forward” with the surging expansion. On another note, I am very excited about our city park expansions and have asked the mayor and city manager to plant as many trees and native shrubs as possible to off-set the wholesale defoliation of our city caused by the expansion.

The Baker Road extension alone destroyed many acres of wildlife habitat, and my councilman, Bob Hoskins, has promised a new greenbelt, with him personally planting the first tree. I am very excited about this and the great job Scott Johnson is doing with our parks department. Baytown is indeed on the move, but it is everyone’s responsibility to make sure our city moves in the right direction. I want to do my part, how about you?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Baytown Nurture Nature Festival Nov 2nd!

I would like to invite you and your organization to join us as an exhibitor on Saturday, November 2nd, for the 4th Annual Nurture Nature Festival at the Baytown Nature Center.  Last year’s festival was a big success, with over 1,100 visitors who enjoyed the day.  The free, family event will once again be held on San Jacinto Point at the Nature Center, which is a beautiful peninsula of land surrounded by Crystal and Burnet Bays.  The point is home to fishing piers, picnic pavilions, walking trails, a stage and a unique Children’s Nature Discovery Area.  We are also celebrating the ten year anniversary of the Nature Center, and have a special community activity planned to celebrate that milestone.

Texas Snakes and More, The Big Buzz Theory, and Crocodile Encounter will again be giving educational presentations on Texas wildlife throughout the festival.  The center’s partner facility, the Eddie V. Gray Wetlands Education Center, will also be on hand with some of their live animal and education exhibits.

If you are not familiar with the Baytown Nature Center, its history is a success story in “reusing” at its finest…  it is the former site of the Brownwood Subdivision that was destroyed by Hurricane Alicia in 1983, and subsequently restored to a nature center by removing all houses and infrastructure.  The center has been the site of numerous mitigation projects, and boasts over 100 acres of high quality restored salt marsh.

Contact us for an Exhibitor Application form for the event.  If you would like to join us for the festival, please complete the application and return it back to me (either by email or fax).  I am excited about the opportunity to host such a wide variety of nature and ecology themed organizations for a day of fun and education for the whole family.

Please feel free to contact me with questions…  I look forward to working with you!!

Tracey Prothro
Superintendent of Natural Resource Programs
City of Baytown
Eddie V. Gray Wetlands Education & Recreation Center
Baytown Nature Center
(281) 420-7101  Office
(281) 420-7142  Fax
(713) 459-2438  Cell

Elvis has left the room

I want to set something on the table and anyone who bothers to read anything I write, please take a good hard look. We are living in a...