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
Mr. Justin Rhodes
Region 4 Regional Director
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
(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:
- The Miocene-Pliocene outcrop of the hill itself is of
geologic interest and worthy of interpretation.
- 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?
- The Trinity River bottomland hardwood forest is
a significant natural asset.
- 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.
- The shadow witch orchid (Ponthieva racemosa), a
Texas native orchid, has been found on the site.
- Yaupon encroachment on the scattered prairie
sites is severe. It is much worse since the last visit
with TPWD in 2008.
- 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.
- Much of the soils and flora would be vulnerable to
heavy foot traffic, so development as a State Natural
Area would be very appropriate.
- [As with any state park, there are vulnerabilities; it
is likely that the greater visibility afforded by limited
public access would lessen these.]
- 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:
- 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.
- 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
- There are some unique plant communities that
contain Durand's oak and black walnut at Davis
Hill. These communities are not described and need
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Evelyn L. Merz
Lone Star Chapter and Houston Regional Group
Enclosure: Comments delivered to the Texas Parks
and Wildlife Commission on August 20, 2008
Frank Blake, Chair, Houston Regional Group Sierra
Art Browning, Houston Regional Group Sierra Club
Maxine Johnston, Big Thicket Association
Brandt Mannchen, Forestry Chair, Lone Star Chapter
Bruce Walker, Executive Director, Big Thicket
Scheleen Walker, Director, Lone Star Chapter Sierra