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Houston Regional Group - Article

Article:
DAVIS HILL STATE PARK

This park is one of several that have not been opened to the public. Why? Because the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has not had funds for developing, opening, and staffing them. Now Davis Hill State Park, northeast of Houston, and near Cleveland, Texas, is headed toward limited public access. Development will require significant work by volunteers. For this, see the notice on page 11.

The following is the text of a letter from Evelyn Merz, Conservation Chair of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club to TPWD. It includes notes derived from observations during a tour on May 9, 2013, and suggestions for future work (much of which, we hope, will be in the very near future). Formatting of the text has been adjusted, and emphasis has been added.- Ed.

July 1, 2013

Mr. Brent Leisure
Director of State Parks
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
brent.leisure@tpwd.state.tx.us

Mr. Justin Rhodes
Region 4 Regional Director
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
justin.rhodes@tpwd.state.tx.us
(Letter sent via e-mail)

RE: Comments and Suggestions following May 9, 2013 tour of Davis Hill State Park:

Dear Brent and Justin:

Thank you, Brent and Justin, for organizing the May 9th tour of Davis Hill State Park and opening a discussion of future limited public access to the park. I think that everyone thoroughly appreciated the opportunity to visit this overlooked gem of the Texas state park system.

I would like to acknowledge others who contributed comments and information to this letter. Joe Liggio has over a decade's worth of experience studying the park's botanical resources. Maxine Johnston, a long-time advocate for the Big Thicket, contributed her knowledge of Davis Hill's natural assets. Art Browning, also of the Houston Regional Group of the Sierra Club, was especially appreciative of the salt dome geology and the sandstone outcropping at the park. Brandt Mannchen, who is the Forestry Chair for the Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club, attended the 2008 tour of the park and noted special attributes of the park. Bruce Walker, the Executive Director of the Big Thicket Association, supports the comments and suggestions discussed in this letter and plans to send a separate letter with the comments of the BTA.

I do hope that the tour is the beginning of a dialog regarding the park's future. Below are some notes about the special features of the park and suggestions to go forward.

Of special note:

  1. The Miocene-Pliocene outcrop of the hill itself is of geologic interest and worthy of interpretation.
  2. Apparently, some historical/archaeological study has been done of the site (e.g., historical graffiti and a dam on the stream). Interpretation of the area in historical context would be useful. Was this area used by early settlers?
  3. The Trinity River bottomland hardwood forest is a significant natural asset.
  4. The fern ravines are a special feature of the park. Ravines and seepages have easily erodible soils which would require care when analyzing how and where to provide public access.
  5. The shadow witch orchid (Ponthieva racemosa), a Texas native orchid, has been found on the site.
  6. Yaupon encroachment on the scattered prairie sites is severe. It is much worse since the last visit with TPWD in 2008.
  7. There is some invasive tallow near the bayou where we walked out, but it isn't too bad there. It could probably be easily controlled at this point. (Of course, there might have been other areas of tallow infestation that we didn't see.
  8. Much of the soils and flora would be vulnerable to heavy foot traffic, so development as a State Natural Area would be very appropriate.
  9. [As with any state park, there are vulnerabilities; it is likely that the greater visibility afforded by limited public access would lessen these.]
  10. Because of a problem with a closed gate, the group was not actually able to see where the park bordered the river. The riparian corridor would be of greatest importance to wildlife and this would be an important consideration in developing a limited public access plan.
Suggestions for going forward:

  1. From 1993 to 2000, Dr. Larry Brown, Joe Liggio, Carmen Stahl, and Charles Peterson prepared a botanical inventory of Davis Hill. (Joe Liggio has sent me a PDF file of the inventory, which I can send to you.) Joe Liggio also wrote his thesis on the ?ora. The citation is: Liggio, Joe " An Investigation of the Plant Communities and Flora of Davis Hill State Park, Liberty County Texas."Master's Thesis, University of Houston Clear Lake, 2000 These botanical studies should be gathered and form the nucleus of a resource inventory of the park's natural and historical assets, although this wouldn't preclude updating the listing.
  2. There is a need for an inventory of the fauna of Davis Hill State Park. There is an opportunity for volunteers to participate in developing a list of avian species.
  3. There are some unique plant communities that contain Durand's oak and black walnut at Davis Hill. These communities are not described and need further study.
  4. Engage the public in protecting the park's indigenous plant populations through invasive species control. Couldn't work days be set up so that volunteers can cut tallow & yaupon while licensed personnel apply herbicide on the cut stumps? Since the tallow areas are right next to water, TPWD would be restricted in herbicide selection. One matter of concern would be the method of handling all the cut yaupon brush piles. There would be a substantial amount and it could be a fire hazard when it dried.
  5. Form an ad hoc advisory committee of people who would like to see at least a limited access program developed for the park with attention focused on protecting park resources. Setting up work days could be one of the actions of an advisory committee. The Houston Group of the Sierra Club would appreciate the opportunity to participate in such a group.
  6. We recommend that Davis Hill SP not be considered as an isolated state park, but that the plan for Davis Hill SP be linked to Lake Livingston SP, the USACE Wallisville site, units of the Big Thicket and Trinity River NWR and to the Trinity River. (Please see Item #5 in the attached comments delivered to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission on August 20, 2008.)

Thank you again for your efforts to open discussion on Davis Hill State Park and for your attention to these comments and suggestions. I hope that this letter and comments from other tour attendees will be a prelude to further progress on Davis Hill State Park. If you have questions or comments, please contact me at 713-644-8228 or at elmerz@hal-pc.org

Sincerely,
Evelyn L. Merz
Conservation Chair
Lone Star Chapter and Houston Regional Group

Enclosure: Comments delivered to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission on August 20, 2008

Cc:
Frank Blake, Chair, Houston Regional Group Sierra Club
Art Browning, Houston Regional Group Sierra Club
Maxine Johnston, Big Thicket Association
Joe Liggio
Brandt Mannchen, Forestry Chair, Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club
Bruce Walker, Executive Director, Big Thicket Association
Scheleen Walker, Director, Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club


Last updated:  04/01/2013.   Content 2013-2013 by the Sierra Club.