When the Willow Waterhole Conservation Reserve (also known as Willow Waterhole Park) became a significant component of Project Brays in 2000, the main plan for its 290 acres was to create infrastructure that allowed for flood damage reduction. In the 17 years since, it’s become so much more than that—it’s truly a haven for the Brays Oaks community and the city of Houston, and these reasons prove it.
Nature In The City
In the bustle of the city, it’s not always easy to get away from traffic, noise pollution, and concrete. Heading to the conservation reserve means finding peace and quiet in a habitat where nature flourishes in the absence of homes and businesses. Inside the park, plants, trees and ponds create homes for various wildlife, including a growing number of rare bird species.
Scenic Trails For Outside Exercise
Why hop on a treadmill to walk or run when you can get scenic overviews instead? The two-mile Westbury Lake south trail inside the park makes a great loop for long-distance runners training for their next marathon, or for leisurely walkers hoping to get some exercise in while they take in native Houston plants and birds.
Environmental Stewardship And Volunteering
Volunteering time and energy to the environment feels good, and there are ample opportunities at Willow Waterhole for volunteers of all ages. There’s no better way to meet like-minded members of the community, and to teach kids about the natural world around us. From planting trees to fishing for invasive species, there are many ways to get out and help on a regular basis.
Festivals To Celebrate Music And Art
If the natural environment alone doesn’t float your boat, music lovers can appreciate the free annual Willow Waterhole MusicFest. Each spring, Houstonians converge on the park for two days of live music from genres ranging from Zydeco to R&B and everything in between. The latest festival also included an Artist Village with over 40 participating artists, in addition to entertainers like aerialists, gymnasts and dancing stilt-walkers.
The ponds inside Willow Waterhole aren’t just for show. Last year, Texas Parks and Wildlife began stocking ponds with bluegill, largemouth bass, and catfish as part of an initiative to create an urban fishery. In partnership with Texas Fly Fishers, the goal is to create a habitat to conserve native species and provide education to the public. Plus, there’s a new spot inside the city to fish.
Neighborhoods to Trails Southwest is a community organization that seeks to connect the neighborhoods in Southwest Houston to the city’s extensive bayou trails system. In this video about the Keegans Bayou Trail we introduce ourselves.
Brays Oaks District is more than just streets, buildings, and businesses; individuals working together to build community is what makes it a great place to live. In our My Brays Oaks series, we highlight the people and organizations making a difference in the community, a place we’re proud to call home. Today we feature Daniella Lewis, the Farm Stand Program Manager at Plant It Forward, a nonprofit organization that helps refugees grow urban farm businesses to provide fresh, local produce for Houston.
Tell me about Plant It Forward and your work with refugees.
We help refugees who have agricultural backgrounds become urban farmers here in Houston. Currently, we have seven independent farmers growing for our brand. This October, we’re planning to start training a new class of prospective farmers, probably 20-24 from all around the world.
So the seven farmers actually manage the farms for Plant It Forward?
Our current master farmers went through the training program several years back [and now] they are farming independently on Plant It Forward land, fulfilling farm shares, farmers markets, farm stands and wholesale orders. We have seven individuals who are making a living off the farms; we actually had nine until just recently, but we have our first alumni: Albert Lombo and Adrien Ikaba. They started their own business called Houston Gardening Market, and they have their own farm out in Tomball now. So they’re our first successful trainees that really did go out and become independent.
Are there any other cities working on similar refugee farming programs?
There is a whole network of refugee farms between many different cities nationally. But we’re unique in that our program provides a full-time occupation and a livable wage. A lot of other programs are more focused on community building and supplemental income, which is wonderful, but we’re making this an economic program. And part of that is possible because we live in a climate that’s a year-round growing season.
Why did Plant It Forward choose Brays Oaks for two major farms?
We chose it because of the partnerships. Our Fondren location is in partnership with Braeswood Assembly of God. It’s a solid three acres of farming in the middle of the city. And Westbury is a beautiful location as well. It’s seven acres in the middle of the city, and it’s in partnership with [Westbury Community Garden], Westbury Civic Club, and I know Brays Oaks Management District is very hands-on with that effort. We have two acres of the seven there; the other five are the community garden.
Your Westbury farm recently acquired a high tunnel. Can you talk about that?
It was a big accomplishment, in partnership with the USDA National Resources Conservation Service and Minority Owner Magazine. [The latter] put together workshops around the country, and they chose us for the Houston/Gulf Coast region. So we did a public barn raising (or I suppose, a high tunnel raising). They increase production at a site without chemicals or anything harsh because they create a physical barrier against the weather and insects.
Will you be using it for special projects?
We’re going to use the high tunnel for starting transplants. Instead of outsourcing that to other local businesses, we’re going to take it in-house and produce seedlings more cheaply. So we’re really thankful that we have the high tunnel at our demonstration farm at Westbury.
What’s next for Plant It Forward?
We’re developing a curriculum [for the upcoming class of farmers] currently with Joe Novak, our agriculture expert, and we’re putting together topics on business skills and some cultural points. Our own master farmers are going to come back and teach some pieces of the curriculum as well. It’s going to be a neat cycle within the organization. Our slogan is “A farm in every neighborhood.” We want it to be very normal for there to be a local farm to get fresh produce in Houston.
What is the HUBZone Set-Aside Program
Join the SBA Houston District Office Business Opportunity Specialists for a webinar about the HUBZone Set-Aside Program. Register for this webinar to find out about the Program and the many tools available to help small businesses build and successfully compete in the federal sector.
You Will Learn:
• Overview of the HUBZone Set-Aside Program
• How to Apply for the HUBZone Set-Aside Program
Friday, August 4, 2017
10:00 a.m – 11:00 a.m. (Central Daylight Time)
SBA offers a variety of programs and services. Understanding how SBA works is the first step towards receiving assistance. Whether you are just getting started or you are an existing business ready to expand, you will learn about our loan programs and how our resource partners, SBDC, PTAC, SCORE, and WBC can help.
Visit the Houston District website calendar for upcoming workshops and events.
The Office of Inspector General would like to alert everyone to fraudulent automated calls being made to citizens in Texas and elsewhere by individuals posing as being with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Inspector General’s Office. The caller states “your Social Security number has been flagged for fraud” and requests an immediate call back to (512) 937-2871. When this number is called you are advised the “Google subscriber is not available please leave a message”.
Inspector General Bruce Toney advises everyone to not provide personal identifying information to anyone in this circumstance and to be alert for other similar circumstances where criminals are seeking to obtain your personal information. A complaint has been filed with the FCC.
Volunteers and leaders from the American Red Cross of Greater Houston and the Houston Fire Department (HFD) will be going door-to-door in historic Third Ward this Saturday, July 15, to install free 10-year lithium ion battery smoke alarms and educate residents about fire safety. It marks the first installation in which the Red Cross and HFD are teaming up, with the goal of working together to install 3,000 free smoke alarms in Houston homes over the next 12 months.
“Working smoke alarms are your first line of defense in a fire and when combined with an escape plan can double your chances of surviving. A major goal of the Houston Fire Department is to install as many smoke alarms and talk to as many residents about fire safety as possible. Our partnership with the Red Cross is an extension of our on-going efforts to protect the citizens of Houston,” said Sam Pena, Fire Chief, City of Houston.
The Houston Fire Department launched the Get Alarmed Houston program in December 2001, challenging the private industry to donate and help with installing smoke alarms. Their goal is to not only make the City of Houston the safest city in Texas, but the safest city in the world as it pertains to fire related accidents and fire deaths. The American Red Cross launched the national Home Fire Campaign in 2014 with the goal of reducing fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent by 2020. Both the HFD and Red Cross programs have been made possible with the help of donors, corporations, community partners and thousands of volunteers.
“Every eight minutes, the Red Cross responds to a disaster – and the vast majority of these are home fires,” said David Brady, Chief Executive Officer, American Red Cross of the Texas Gulf Coast. “So much can be done to reduce those statistics through safety education and the installation of smoke alarms in homes that need them. It’s an honor to partner with the Houston Fire Department in our shared dedication toward creating a safer community.”
Date: Saturday, July 15
Location (Primary): Unity National Bank, 2602 Blodgett Street, Houston, TX 77004
8:00 a.m. -9:00 a.m. Sign-in/Breakfast
9:00 a.m. -9:30 a.m. Press Conference – to include HFD Chief Sam Pena, Red Cross CEO David Brady, CenterPoint Energy Executive Vice President Tracy Bridges, Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee
9:30 – 10:00 a.m. Training/safety briefing for volunteers
10:00 a.m. – 12 p.m. Volunteers install smoke alarms in homes throughout Emancipation Avenue, Wheeler Ave, Ennis and Southmore streets
12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Volunteers return, have lunch; closing remarks by leadership
If you are interested in volunteering to install smoke alarms for future dates, please call 713-313-1608 or visit www.redcross.org.