Natural buffers of green space between rivers and residents are one of the best ways to reduce flooding. And they come with side benefits! Like occasionally spotting endangered species.
Ken and Debbie Beeney are avid birders who frequent Kingwood’s East End Park, where they have helped document more than 140 species of birds, many of them rare, threatened, or even endangered – such as the Henslow’s Sparrow. The presence of such species helps indicate the environmental health of a community. And on that score, Kingwood is doing well, indeed.
History of East End Park
Back in the 1980s, Friendswood Development had hoped to build another subdivision in the area of East End Park. But because of wetland issues, the EPA issued a “cease and desist” order in 1988. The developer then donated East End Park to the Kingwood Service Association (KSA) to turn it into a community amenity.
The dirt from the streets Friendswood cut in Kings Point built up the area that has now a 43-acre tall-grass meadow within the larger 158-acre nature park bordering the San Jacinto East Fork.
Fast Forward 33 Years
In addition to providing hiking and jogging trails, the park provides a refuge for migrating birds. In winter, the grass goes to seed and the birds use that as a fly-through buffet.
After consulting with the Houston Audubon Society and the Lake Houston Area nature club, KSA decided to mow the meadow each year after the spring migration. Mowing helps prevent the forest from encroaching on the meadow. The timing also allows the tall grass to regrow and reseed before the fall migration. That helps preserve a healthy supply of seed and cover that attracts all those species.
Beeney Photographs Henslow’s Sparrow
The Beeneys, who are members of the Lake Houston Area Nature Club, write, “Could you please extend our thanks and gratitude to KSA for timing the mowing of the meadow to accommodate the wintering birds who need this type of habitat.”
“Saturday January 9th, we spotted a rare bird, the Henslow’s sparrow. This is the first observed Henslow’s at East End Park. Henslow’s is listed as an endangered species in Canada. Additionally, seven U.S. states have listed Henslow’s Sparrow as endangered, five have listed it as threatened, and four have listed it as a species of Special Concern. Grassland conservation efforts have been responsible for the reversal of some long-term declines among local populations of this species.”
“Our bird walks in December and January have yielded high numbers of sparrows in the grassy meadow. Species include; LeConte’s, Chipping, Savannah and Swamp Sparrows. The overwintering sparrows need the tall grasses for protection from predators and as a food source.”
Regards, Ken and Debbie Beeney
Park Has Many Values
In addition, to attracting wildlife, areas such as East End Park attract people. East End is one of the busiest parks in Kingwood. The Lake Houston Area Nature Club meets there at 7:30 a.m. on the second Saturday of each month from September through May for guided nature walks.
The park helps PROTECT wildlife. But we shouldn’t forget that it also provides a valuable amenity for residents and protects homes from flooding. During Harvey and Imelda, the ENTIRE park went underwater. Can you imagine if Friendswood had built homes there!
Ultimately, the donation by Friendswood let them salvage some value out of the land by improving home values in the rest of Kingwood. This should be a valuable lesson for all developers as areas upstream start to develop.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/16/2021 with thanks to KSA, Ken Beeney and Debbie Beeney
1236 Days since Hurricane Harvey