BLOG

A Porpoise in Corpus

IMG_1290No one who attended the Association of Water Board Directors Summer Conference last week in Corpus Christi will forget it. We had a strategic PURPOSE for attending, which was to build on our relationships with the 100+ districts in our watershed. But with the torrential rain and flooding from Tropical Storm Bill that closed down Highway 59 and made our trip wet and harrowing we found ourselves wishing we could swim down like a porpoise! Thankfully we arrived safely, set up our booth and found some sunshine to enjoy in a beautiful Texas coastal city.

2015-06-19 16.54.14-1

 

 

A lot of things have changed in the six years we’ve been attending this well-constructed gathering of local community leaders. The water district business continues to evolve and one of the most significant evolutions is in the view of parks and trails. Many boards now realize that an investment in parks and trails infrastructure improves values and helps the community compete in the real estate market. We are very excited to see that AWBD now has a “Parks and Trails Committee” to help educate directors on best practices when developing their own systems.

Print

 

 

Each year we host a reception specifically for the directors in our watershed. This is an opportunity for networking, collaboration and information sharing. This year we provided a brief program on the three, regional flood mitigation basins that will start construction on Greens Bayou in 2015. Those basins are the result of many years of Coalition advocacy and bring $132 million in infrastructure improvements to our region. Thank you to all our sponsors, especially our Bald Eagle sponsor, Radcliffe Bobbitt Adams Polley. We will have an updated page our web site soon with information on the three basin projects.

2015-06-18 14.05.23

 

We had a lot of great conversations in our booth and gave away some very cool GBCC backpacks made from 100% recycled materials. If you attended I hope we had the chance to visit with you and thank you for your support of our mission. If we missed you and you would like an update for your board, just let us know. In the meantime, we’ll all count our blessings that we made it Corpus Christi, fulfilled our purpose and get to live, work and play in a great community.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Comments Off on A Porpoise in Corpus

Farewell & Good Luck, Regina!

Regina HeadshotOver time thousands of people will have the opportunity to make a contribution to the success of Greens Bayou Corridor Coalition. Hundreds already have. Most intersect with our mission by participating in a tree planting or clean-up project, or by lending their voice to an advocacy campaign. In the nine years since our founding as a non-profit corporation in 2007 a few have stood above all others. Their names and deeds will be forever linked to Greens Bayou. One of these most notable is our Founding Executive Director Regina Lindsey.

 

They say luck is the place where preparation meets opportunity. I must have been exceedingly prepared/lucky in the Spring of 2009 to meet Regina very soon after she arrived in Houston and began her work as Executive Director of Greens Bayou Corridor Coalition. We met for lunch so I could give her my perspective as a resident of the watershed and shortly after I volunteered for the West Reach Committee. From this front row seat I watched her jump in and begin the hard work of getting a non-profit up and going. Working with the board she brought in new resources and soon had our committees laying the ground work for a much-needed Parks & Trails Master Plan.

 

I didn’t realize at that time that I was in the grasp of some serious serendipity. Through our association on the committee Regina learned that I was attempting to undergo a mid-life career change and find a home in the community development field. She invited me to submit my resume and be considered when grant funding from Houston Endowment allowed GBCC to hire a Development Director. In February of 2011 I started my career with The Coalition by attending the Association of Water Board Directors Winter Conference in Galveston. Not even an ice storm could stop me from opening this new chapter!

 

Working with Regina was a highlight of my professional career. She is a dynamic, resourceful and energetic personality. She helped me channel my writing skills in to the new area of grant writing. She was able to help me translate everything I had learned as a marketing professional and business owner and bring that to the non-profit world. Many days she saw something in me that I wasn’t yet able to see. When she moved full-time into her economic development role at the Greenspoint District and I was appointed to succeed her as The Coalition’s Executive Director she was gracious and generous with her time and advice. I didn’t hesitate to have her as part of our Board of Directors because I knew she would provide a perspective that was unique and she would always have the highest good of the organization in mind. I am truly grateful and feel exceedingly blessed that she has been my mentor and friend.

 

So, why have I chosen today to write this tribute to Regina? Regina has been named the new President of the Greater Beaumont Chamber of Commerce and will be leaving the Houston area in a few short weeks. All of us at GBCC are excited for her as she begins this new chapter in her professional career. We all know that Beaumont has a true gem on its hands! But, at the same time we are sorry to say goodbye. She will leave our board but remain available as a member of our Advisory Council. When the story of the Greens Bayou Corridor Coalition is written Regina will be an integral part of our story. Part of our beginning and part of our ultimate success. Thank you, Regina, for everything! Namaste!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Farewell & Good Luck, Regina!

It was the best of times

2015-03-23 09.19.38If you missed our Annual Meeting last week you missed a great celebration of special people and important milestones. We hope that our Founding Chair, Bill Franks, left the event feeling like his significant contribution to The Coalition had been duly recognized. We can never thank Bill enough for being brave enough to take the helm of a fledgling non-profit with no funds in the bank and guiding it to where we are today.

 

 

LBL_5280

 

 

We were honored to be joined by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee to help us celebrate the approval of funding for the Federal flood damage reduction project in her district on Greens Bayou. After a strategic six year advocacy effort by our ace Public Policy Committee and members of the community we will see this $55 million project bring benefits to our region. That is worth celebrating!

LBL_5337You also would have missed our excellent keynote speaker, Robert Ratcliffe, from the National Park Service. We were all wowed by the plans NPS has to celebrate the centennial of our national park system. And then we had a special surprise guest, J.J. Moses, former kick returner with the Houston Texans. J.J. was excited to talk about how we share a passion for getting kids outside and active.

LBL_5344

 

If this crew looks like a bunch of hard workers, you are right. This is the firm of Radcliffe Bobbitt Adams Polley, our Bayou Buddy award winner for 2014. The Bayou Buddy is given to an organization that has shown exceptional stewardship of our bayou and support for the mission of The Coalition. They’ve done everything from draft legal documents, to plant trees, to feed volunteers. Thank you, RBAP!!

LBL_5347

 

And this is Gary O’Neil, our Volunteer of the Year. The tree dude. Gary is a CenterPoint forester and answers the call almost every time we have a tree planting event. He has a true passion for trees and a natural way of teaching kids why trees make our world better and how to properly plant them. We are so grateful for Gary’s generous spirit. Thank you, Gary!

 

You’ll find all the photos of our happy stakeholders on our web site.

And we can’t forget to thank all of those who sponsored our event, especially our Trailblazers, for helping us make our impact “Beyond the Bayou”.

EHRA logoEast Aldine District (1)Greenspoint District no background

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on It was the best of times

Ready, Set, Go!

Gronewold from bridge-1 editedJanuary is almost complete and it’s been a busy and productive month to kick off an exciting year at Greens Bayou Corridor Coalition. Changes are underway; some we can tell you about and others will be a surprise. We’ve started scheduling bayou projects, have a fun new committee and a couple of fabulous events coming up soon. If you’ve been looking for a way to get involved with us but haven’t yet now is the time!

I mentioned in my last blog that for the first time in our organization’s history we will have a new Chair of the Board. On January 15th our board elected Reginald Lillie to lead us. Reginald is a native Houstonian, a long-time independent insurance broker, and a leader for a diverse group of organizations. Most recently he served as President of the Houston branch of the NAACP. He serves on the board of trustees for Methodist Willowbrook and is a past chair of the CyFair Houston Chamber of Commerce. Reginald has been especially active on our Public Policy Committee and instrumental in the policy decisions and milestones that we have met. On behalf of his fellow board members and The Coalition staff we say “Welcome, Reginald”!

Funding-the-Greens-Bayou-Flood-Mitigation-Project-in-Houston,-TexasAt the January 15th board meeting our board passed several resolutions and this letter of support for the Federal Project on Greens Bayou that has been sent to the Assistant Secretary of the Army-Civil Works Jo Ellen Darcy. The omnibus spending bill passed by Congress at the end of 2014 to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year includes provisions for new start flood mitigation construction projects. The Greens Bayou project meets the requirements to compete for funding and, as evidenced by our fall advocacy campaign, has strong community support. The project could be constructed in under two years providing significant flood mitigation benefit to Greens Bayou residents.

Resolution-in-Support-of-Truth-in-Budgeting-for-State-ParksOur board also passed a resolution supporting “Truth in Budgeting” for Texas Parks & Wildlife. In 2007 businesses and citizens of Texas supported a “self-tax” on all sporting goods to fund Texas Parks & Wildlife. So, for instance any time you buy a hunting or fishing license that tax is designated for TPWD. However, a tax code provision was inserted in the bill so that funding is still appropriated each biennium by the legislature. Only about 33.5% of all the sporting goods sales tax collections have been provided to our state parks system. This funding also impacts many local grants programs. The Coalition and other organizations rely on TPWD grant funds to help with park development and programming.

Our Public Policy committee will be traveling to Austin on January 28th to be part of the Texas Recreation and Parks Society’s Lobby Day to advocate for this sporting good sales tax to be constitutionally designated for TPWD. If this is something that is important to you, contact your state representative and let them know.

Saint Arnold's Flyer JPEGAnd, finally, the exciting new committee I mentioned at the beginning of the blog. Our Paddle Trail Strategic Plan is complete and we are ready to begin implementation. This is a big project, spanning 27.5 miles with an estimated cost of $2.6 million. Our Paddle Trail Committee began meeting in January and one of the committee’s goals is to hold a regatta on Greens Bayou in 2016. If this is something you want to get involved in let us know! And if you’d like a “sneak peek” of the paddle trail which will be officially unveiled at our March 23rd Annual Meeting come out to St. Arnold Brewery from 6-9 pm on February 23rd. We’ll celebrate the hard work of our Strategic Plan Advisory Committee and talk about how you can get involved! Tickets and sponsorships are available.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Ready, Set, Go!

Holy Days

As this year winds to a close and our thoughts turn to celebrating holidays with family and friends I offer some thoughts about the year of 2014. This end-of-the-year blog comes with some very special gifts: photos taken by Jorge Zempoalteca with Harris County Flood Control of creatures who inhabit the Greens Bayou Mitigation Bank. Thank you, Jorge, for gifting us with these amazing photos and a reminder that we share our world with some very cool critters!

So, what stands out most in my mind as I reflect back on the year of projects, planning and people?

 

Certainly, the people always come first. We have the most committed, passionate and resourceful volunteers around. From those that guide us as part of our Advisory Council and Board of Directors to the kids who come out to plant a tree, they are all special in their own way. I am especially grateful for our founding Board Chair, Bill Franks, as he prepares to hand over his duties early in the New Year.

Bill’s history with our organization goes back to before our founding as a non-profit corporation when only a small handful of people gathered around a table planning how to improve the quality-of-life within the watershed. He has been a steady hand on the wheel. Patient, innovative, diplomatic and resourceful are words I would use to describe him. He has truly been a gift to our organization, a gift in my life and we are truly thankful for his service.

Another highlight has been the completion of a two-year strategic plan with the National Park Service for a paddle trail on Greens Bayou. We have now worked with NPS Community Planner Kathryn Nichols for five years starting with our Parks & Trails Master Plan. She has been another wonderful benefactor to our growth as an organization. She has collaborated skillfully with our volunteers and stakeholders representing a number of our partner organizations. A proposed trail of 27.5 miles complete with overnight camping locations is now a wrap. We will officially release the Paddle Trail Strategic Plan in 2015 and it will always be a legacy of our work with Kathryn and NPS.

Blue Bunting_3267There are so, so many more amazing people who planned, paddled, planted, sweated and supported us in 2014. Whenever I think back over the year those faces come to mind first. It was especially gratifying to have a forester provide a tree planting demonstration at a project this fall. The ground was so hard along the bayou that his shovel literally bent as he tried to demonstrate the proper way to dig a hole for a tree. This difficulty didn’t deter our volunteers and one of the young people working that day remarked that he had a new found respect for the trees that grow along the bayous! They are a hardy bunch, just like our volunteers.

So, thank you for all that you bring to the richness of our mission. We continue to grow and reach new milestones. Through your volunteer spirit and support you are leaving a legacy for our community and that is truly the gift that continues to give!

To make a tax-deductible donation before year end click here. And to support us while you shop click on Amazon Smiles!

Greens Bayou Corridor Coalition
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Holy Days

Put Your Giving Where Your Heart Is!

My favorite holiday is right around the corner. Thanksgiving, with it’s focus on gratitude, truly resonates for me. Of course, the emphasis on food and family only add to it’s appeal (I should throw in the topper… football). I hope that you have something special planned to remind yourself of all that blesses your life.

Greens Bayou Corridor Coalition

One thing I won’t be doing on Thanksgiving (or the day after either) is shopping at my local retail outlet. Crowds are not my favorite thing. But, that doesn’t mean I won’t kick off my holiday retail therapy courtesy of the internet!! Online shopping without the crowds is more my speed. This year Greens Bayou Corridor Coalition is part of the Amazon Smile family of charities. What that means is that if you shop at Amazon through their Smile portal a percentage of your purchase will be donated to your favorite bayou organization! And our association with Amazon will not end when the holidays are over. You will be able to buy Valentine’s gifts, birthday presents and more and still support all the programs you love at GBCC year round!

Giving-Tuesday-Logo-e1386099430562Several years ago a group of philanthropic organizations came together and developed what came to be known as Giving Tuesday. With the emphasis in our culture on shopping and buying with Black Friday and Cyber Monday why not have a day where a donation can be made to your favorite charity instead? Perhaps there is someone on your gift list that would rather have their gift be a tree planted along the bayou or a kayaking trip for a student from an under-served part of Houston. If you know someone like that I hope you will consider Greens Bayou Corridor Coalition in your #GivingTuesday and end of year giving plans. You can do it easily by going to our online donation page.

Photo Mar 09, 8 28 11 AMYour donations, whether through shopping or Giving Tuesday, make an impact on our reach into the community. As we work together to make the water cleaner, to develop parks and trails, plant trees, bring students to the bayou to learn about the natural world, every gift adds up! We are grateful for all the ways you support us and wish for you a Thanksgiving overflowing with delight and blessings!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Put Your Giving Where Your Heart Is!

Volunteers Just Keeping “Wowing” us!

IMG_0457We’re breathing a deep sigh of satisfaction (and probably a bit of relief) as we wrap up another busy fall season of projects and activities on Greens Bayou. Just when we think our volunteers can’t “Wow” us any more they find a way to bowl us over again. And that’s why we keep coming back for more…. working with committed and passionate volunteers is one of the best jobs in the world

IMG_0317

 

 

Our board secretary Regina Adams enlisted her firm, Radcliffe Bobbitt Adams Polley, and they showed up in a big way to plant 25 trees in our North Reach for Harris County MUD 33 on a beautiful October Saturday morning. Twenty-five trees doesn’t sound like much until you know that the auger broke down after only two holes were dug. So, our volunteers really put in a day of back breaking work with the hard soils along the bayou. But the best part of the day was the full “Aggie Style” tailgating lunch prepared by firm partner, Ross Radcliffe! Burgers, chicken, hot dogs and all the fixin’s. We were in heaven!

IMG_0340

 

Later in October we held our 6th West Reach community event. For five years we spent a lot of time and manpower removing debris from the waterway and it was still looking so good our project chair, Mike Castro, decided to go big on trees. So over two locations in Utility District 15 and nearby we planted 86 trees!!

2014-10-25 08.30.46

 

 

Remember that part about the auger breaking before the last project? Well, once again our volunteers had a large number of holes to dig and the soil was so hard and compacted that during the planting demonstration provided by Harris County Flood Control shovels were bending! No doubt the next day or two there were plenty of sore backs and arms.  But because of the hard work and dedication of these volunteers more trees are now planted along the bayou to absorb water, improve water quality and provide shade for generations to come.

2014-10-04 11.59.55Thank you to project supporters not mentioned above: KBR,  CenterPoint, Trees for Houston,  and Halliburton. To see photos from these two events go to our Facebook Photo Album Page. Our Manager of Volunteer Programs, Candice Pauley, is already setting dates and lining up volunteer groups for our 2015 spring and fall projects. If you want to work hard and feel good about the long lasting impact you had on the environment, join us for one of our projects.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Volunteers Just Keeping “Wowing” us!

Help Stop Flooding on Greens Bayou!!

FloodIn 1948 it was recognized that flooding in the Greens Bayou watershed was an economic and social issue so the US Congress authorized a study through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In 1990 a basin and channel modification project was authorized in the Water Resources Development Act. This basin project will be near Antoine and Beltway 8 and is the keystone project in a series of eight planned flood mitigation basins on Greens Bayou.

timeline

 

My blog today is all about letting your voice be heard! The Greens Bayou Corridor Coalition’s Public Policy Committee kicked off a citizen’s letter writing campaign this week to support the funding for this project. Outreach has already begun to utility districts, chambers of commerce, homeowners associations, management districts and other stakeholders groups to send a letter to the Assistant Secretary of the Army-Civil Works and Congressional leaders to let them know how much the community supports implementation of this long-awaited project.

Federal Project SystemHome values in the project area have been significantly impacted by past floods and being moved into the flood plain. Flooding impacts the ability of first responders and emergency personnel from responding to emergencies. Aldine ISD’s Conley Elementary School sits immediately adjacent to the basin. The upstream flood mitigation project, Cutten Basin, cannot be completed until the Federal Project is constructed. Flooding also impacts the Houston Veterans National Cemetery, located just across Beltway 8 and on the banks of Greens Bayou. Did you know that the Houston National Cemetery is the 8th largest in the US by current burial rate?

family walkingIf you agree that a promise made sixty-six years ago should be honored now by our representatives in Congress please consider joining our campaign by sending a letter.

Let your voice be heard!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Help Stop Flooding on Greens Bayou!!

Peeling the Onion

The month of June was a whirlwind for staff and volunteers at Greens Bayou Corridor Coalition. You’ll soon be receiving a newsletter that will give you a good idea of all that’s been happening. My month ended with our crack public policy team in Washington, D.C. to continue to advocate for funding of the federal flood risk management project on Greens Bayou. This is our sixth trip to DC since 2010 in addition to a number of trips to Galveston and Dallas to become more acquainted with the US Army Corps of Engineers.

 

 

Our committee chair, Mike Castro, very aptly likens this advocacy process to peeling an onion. Over time we’ve learned more about how the funding process works, how the cycle of appropriations and bills works and who the decision makers are. It feels like peeling a layer back each time we make a visit to DC. We’re becoming more skilled at asking the right questions and presenting the most relevant information.

 

This year we had our first meeting with the Assistant Secretary of the Army-Civil Works office with the Deputy Assistant Secretary Eric Hansen. Visiting the Pentagon was probably the highlight of our trip for everyone concerned. Not only is it an impressive structure, we learned that about 28,000 people work there. We saw drugstores, doctors offices and everything that make it a small city unto itself. After our meeting we had the opportunity to experience the stark and solemn monument to the people who died there on 9/11.

 

We continue to focus our efforts on all fronts including the US Army Corps of Engineers, the administration (through the Office of Management and Budget) and the the Energy & Water Sub-Committee of both the House and Senate Appropriations Committee. Certainly it’s a moving target as staff and members come and go but the project is becoming more familiar to decision makers. We’ve succeeded in putting a “face” on the project and become the voice for those in the community that are impacted by flooding. So, we’ll continue to peel back the layers, learning each time what works and what doesn’t. Our committee will be discussing the strategy of a public letter writing campaign so if that’s something you’d like to be part of, please stay tuned by subscribing to our e-newsletter.

I’m grateful to live in a country where I can freely advocate for change and grateful to have such an energetic and skillful team to lead the charge. As we approach the anniversary of our nation’s founding we all have much to be grateful for. From the board and staff of Greens Bayou Corridor Coalition a happy and safe Independence Day celebration for you and yours!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Peeling the Onion

Trails Lead Everywhere

Hiking is one of my favorite things to do so no vacation is complete without an opportunity to hit a trail somewhere. I wasn’t sure if my recent vacation to the Leeward Islands would provide me with those opportunities, but I found that the adage “trails lead everywhere” is indeed true. The photo here was taken on a hike on the windward side of St. Barth. The trail overlooked the Atlantic ocean and the waves broke with force on the rocky shore. It was truly breathtaking!

 

Another hike on St. Kitts brought stunning views nearly 360 degrees. Hiking can sure lead to some great places and you just need a sturdy pair of shoes, comfortable clothing and plenty of water. It’s a low cost activity and can be done anywhere around the world at just about any time. Walking helps clear the clutter from the mind and I find it is a meditative and restorative activity. A perfect battery recharger that can refresh you to be more present in your day-to-day activities.

 

The sights and sounds along the trails on my trip were just what the doctor ordered. I returned to Houston rested, refreshed and ready to get back to the important work of doing what I can to see trails built in the Houston region. All those benefits and more are needed in a busy, urban environment like this. Actually, I would argue, they are needed even more urgently. The lifestyles that we lead here call for us to pay more attention to the natural world that surrounds us. Our work in big buildings made of steel and concrete makes us appreciate trees and grass all the more. The hours we spend in our cars (hours and hours) mean that time spent outside is precious. We need to honor the need we have as humans to get outside and renew ourselves. I hope that this summer brings an opportunity for you to get outside, soak up some sunshine, and find a trail that will lead you exactly where you need to be.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Trails Lead Everywhere