Friday, April 15, 2016

We are no longer a Dirty Bay

My bride and I were discussing Baytown, its future, and our perceived reputation as “just another working class oil town” or dirty bay as some claim. We have an organization here named Keep Baytown Beautiful which I aligned myself with for a short spell.  It has a mission to well, keep the city beautiful. For starters I think we need a paradigm shift to make Baytown beautiful first, and then we can keep the ball rolling.

Eleanor Albon and Kathy Nelson are the movers and shakers in this organization and my hat stays off to both of them.  Eleanor runs the Adopt-a-site program and Kathy overseas beautification projects. Both of these are crucial to making Baytown a better and cleaner place to raise our families. They are making headway and it is making a difference in our city.

My new goal is to have positive input into the Strategic Planning Advisory Committee with other like-minded citizens. Our aim is to plot the 5 year future of the city. As I’ve stated before, I am all about the quality of living here, not in a new restaurant or retail store. Other committee members can worry over that.

This past week, my bride and I made our 3rd trip into Houston for outdoor activities.  Each time we racked up about 65 miles going and coming. The 1st and 2nd trip were to take our grandson to Donovan Park in the Heights. This closed-in and wrought iron-fenced castle-like playground is hugely popular and is large enough that it is never really overly crowded. There is covered seating so parents can watch their kids in comfort and the gate lock is high enough that only adults can open it.

Baytown needs one of these parks – or two. Again it will require a paradigm shift from the prefab playground stuff most cities erect, including ours. As a committee member planning our city’s future, I do not want to be the proverbial flea in a lidless jar, who only jumps as high as where the lid should be. There is no lid and there is no reason Baytown can’t have a unique park where people drive 30 miles to come to it.

Look at Kemah. Mainly through one man’s vision, it is an international draw. We have some of this amazing stuff in Baytown already, so it is not unreasonable. We have Pirates Bay and the new fountain on Texas Avenue which doubles as an ice rink in winter. We have the Royal Purple Raceway. Thanks to Scott Johnson’s leadership and our hard-working parks crews, we have well maintained parks for kids to play.

The Heights in Houston.
In talking to Director of Strategic Initiatives Nick Woolery the other day I suggested we have a second and maybe a third Calypso Cove. Parks are money sinks, but if one is breaking even, or better yet, making money like Pirates Bay, to me it is a no brainer to build another or expand the one we have.

Our disc golf course is the best in the Houston metroplex! The best! We are soon to expand the trails in Jenkins Park and I am asking for elevation changes and a certified 5K trail. This may not seem important, but if it is certified, runners will train here for competition. I would love to see a flyover connecting the Blue Heron Parkway trail to Jenkins Park. This would be hugely popular, as runners can practice their hill climbing other than running over the Fred Hartman Bridge.

In the Heights of Houston, the ten foot wide sidewalks are safe because they are so heavily used. Cyclists, runners, families, dog walkers, roller skaters, and yes, geocachers are on it constantly. People are choosing a healthier lifestyle over sitting on the couch simply because it is available and easy to get to. Our city is planning an entire loop of connecting 10 foot sidewalks that will allow us to take long bike rides, hikes, and runs. Everyone is aware that our kids need to lose weight and this is one great way as a family to accomplish that goal.

I’ve made the claim for years that Baytown is not friendly toward people on bikes or afoot and if I can change that, I surely will. Healthier cities have a lot of foot traffic, but when the only walking we do is a half a parking lot occasionally, we are kidding ourselves. There is a plan to have a 10 foot wide sidewalk from the Evergreen defunct golf course all the way over to the Baytown Nature Center using old RR tracks as a roadbed.

The Goose Creek trail starting at Bayland Park will run all the way to Emmett Hutto Drive in the next expansion. Baytown can be like Kemah. We have the water resources and we can exploit them with kayak/canoe launches and amenities to draw water lovers. I am working with the tourism department to bring a Geocaching Geotour here, which will attract people from all over the country. We should be launching it in the next few months.

So, the preconceived notion that whatever we do here is “good enough” is not good enough. We need to be that flea that jumps high enough that it realizes the sky is the limit. Baytown can be THE place to visit and the place to raise a family and through your help, we can make it so. So, how do you get involved? Send me input. Talk to your councilperson. Call the tourism department or the parks department and give them your suggestions. Most of all when you hear the city is trying to push through a Parks-related issue, give them a high five.

You can also go online and submit your ideas by taking the Imagine Baytown Survey!  It is very short.


Anonymous said...

Bruce "Bruno" Marshall: Good job

Anonymous said...

Kelly Bordelon: I have driven from La Porte to take the kids to Calypso Cove. We've never gotten in at Pirate's Bay. The Nature Center is very nice. If you build it people will come, and that is a win for every person and retailer in your pretty town by the Bay.

Patrick Newman said...

I'm glad to see you taking such an active role in your hometown. You are definitely the exception to the rule. All it takes is just a little momentum, like what you are doing, to create a big change. Think of the tiny snowball that grows larger as it rolls down hill.

As I've written before, mainly in cache logs, it's funny how the title of an article, or cache name, will trigger a mental link to a song. Your blog title took no real leap of imagination. Check out the link to YouTube of a song by the Pogues: Dirty Old Town. If you listen to the lyrics, you may find it somewhat appropriate:

Keep up the great work, Bert!

Anonymous said...

Bert – I loved your article titled, We Are No Longer Dirty Bay. Very positive, highlighting positives in Baytown, and it was a call to action for our citizens. We need more articles and stories like this in our news and social media. Well done.

Kevin G. Troller

Assistant City Manager

Baytown, Texas 77522

Anonymous said...

KN: Thank you so much for your article and your support. Wow!

Anonymous said...

EA: Dear Bert,

Thanks for the "plug" about KBB. Kathy and I greatly appreciate it and the whole article in today's Sun!

I'm so glad you're on the SPAC (is that the right acronym?) There are few who know more about our fair city than you! Love the improvement ideas you expressed today.

Anonymous said...

Steve DonCarlos: Really good article, Bert!

Anonymous said...

Tammy Tallant: Great article!!!! Excited about the future of my our city!!!

Anonymous said...

Linda Postal-Marshall: Yes I forgot to mention it is a great article. Baytown is growing up and beating the odds because of good citizens like you, Bert.

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