News Categories: Parks & Trails

29 Mar
By: Communications 0

Precinct 4’s Unofficial Historian

By Alicia Alaniz

There’s something special about the way Monte Parks retells historical events that brings the past to life.

For more than 15 years, Parks has taught early Texas history, first as a programmer and tour guide at Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center and now as assistant superintendent for the Harris County Precinct 4 Parks Department.

“I always try to teach what was going on in the world that led the earliest Texans to their decisions and what happened as a result. People respond much better to that type of history than just names and dates,” Parks says. “I also try to show how things going on in the world today relate to history.”

Although Parks has always loved history, he didn’t become an expert overnight. The process required years of dedicated independent study and an insatiable thirst for knowledge.

“I read about 200 history books over the past 15 years. If I was going to teach Texas history, I needed to know more than the park visitors or students,” Parks says.

He also started participating in historical re-enactments during festivals and field trips at Jones Park. As a re-enactor, Parks would outfit himself in authentic apparel and demonstrate the lifestyles of early Texans. Along the way, he picked up a few pioneer skills, such as woodworking and blacksmithing.

“I’m a better storyteller and have more appreciation for our early ancestors here in Texas thanks to re-enacting. When you’re working on a pioneer homestead or cooking over an open fire, you’re living the part of someone from history,” Parks explains. “The experience was eye opening. Life on the frontier was hard. Everyone in the family had to work to make it a success.”

A turning point in his career came when a group of senior adults touring the Redbud Hill Homestead at Jones Park asked him to speak at a meeting for the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. Soon, his reputation as a lively presenter led to regular requests from various groups and organizations, including a class at Lone Star College-Tomball.

Today, his undeniable passion and refreshing approach to Texas history is present in every lecture, pontoon boat tour, and senior adult bus trip he leads.

Parks currently oversees Precinct 4’s Trails As Parks Division, which is a mobile team that works to connect people with nature through outdoor recreation, ecotourism, and environmental education.

You can also find him sharing presentations at Precinct 4’s community centers or at one of five Lone Star College campuses in between tours with senior adults to historical landmarks.

“There is so much to discover. I try to learn something new every day,” Parks says.

“I believe in lifelong learning, and I enjoy giving others an opportunity to continue learning too.”

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29 Mar
By: Communications 0

Preserving History with Precinct 4’s Legacy Trees

By Crystal Simmons

When Harris County Precinct 4 Arborist Laura Carlton plants a tree, she not only considers its future but also its history.

With Texas A&M’s Famous Trees of Texas as her guide, Carlton travels the state collecting acorns, seeds, and cuttings from trees present during significant historical events, such as the Galveston Storm of 1900 or the historic retreat of General Sam Houston. Her goal? To keep the legacy of these famous trees alive in Precinct 4 parks.

“These trees have stood for hundreds of years and hold irreplaceable genetic and historic significance,” says Carlton. “But we have no idea when a lightning strike, hurricane, or disease could take one down. Since we began collecting, four historic trees are no longer standing and three are showing significant limb failure. Precinct 4 ensures these and other historic trees in Texas live on through their descendants.”

Growing the Legacy Trees Project

Plans for a historic tree program began in 2015 when Commissioner R. Jack Cagle received a historic tree donation from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Since then, Precinct 4’s collection has grown to 30 of the 51 historic trees listed in the Famous Trees of Texas guidebook.

“Each of these historic trees tells a unique story about our early years,” says Commissioner Cagle. “These living museums form a vital link to our rich history, reminding us of the dynamic characters and influential events from our past.”

As the need for trees in Precinct 4 greenspaces grew, Commissioner Cagle expanded the historic tree program to include fruit and nut trees, mass tree plantings, trail beautification, volunteer opportunities, and educational events. With the additions, the program needed a new name. In 2018, Precinct 4’s Legacy Trees Project was officially born.

“Legacy trees are not just historic trees. They are also heirloom fruit and nut trees that will one day provide nourishment for residents and wildlife along the trails,” says Carlton.

Today, more than 1,700 legacy trees grow along the Spring Creek and Cypress Creek greenways.

“Several native edibles have already produced crops and provided a habitat for nesting birds,” says Carlton. “Just the other day, a tree we collected in 2015 showed five maturing acorns. I think this speaks to the overall purpose of the project.”

Become a Volunteer

Want to get involved? Become a volunteer! Precinct 4’s Legacy Trees Project offers opportunities to plant trees along the greenways. Precinct 4 residents can also volunteer to care for native edibles or historic trees.

For more information, call 281-353-8100 or email Legacy Trees at legacytrees@hcp4.net.

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08 Mar
By: Communications 0

Prepping for Spring

You may be wondering what you can do out in the yard this weekend and in the coming weeks to prepare for adding new spring color and plants around your home.

Check out these tips to prepare the soil in your flower beds, tidy up your edging, and get your yard ready to flourish this spring!

To prepare your flower beds, simply apply a top dressing of high-quality compost like Cotton Burr or Leaf Mold. You may be tempted to till or turn over the soil, but there’s already a fantastic ecosystem established there that’s best left undisturbed. Nutrients from the top will work their way to the bottom and enhance the properties of your soil.

You’ll also want to clear out any weeds from your beds and consider adding a weed preventer, unless you’re planting bulbs. Then you may choose to add a thin layer of mulch to act as an additional weed barrier, help retain moisture during dry periods, and serve an attractive feature to your home’s curb appeal.

You can also enhance the appearance of your flower beds by tidying up the edging of your flower beds. If it’s been a while since the trenches and shape of your flower beds were established, you might want to re-trench and consider cleaning up the stones or brick. Many times, homeowners don’t mind the look of moss that grows on stones. It can be considered an added color, or even texture, to your overall landscape design. But if you find the moss unsightly, you can spray a fungicide to get rid of the growth.

Now that your flower beds are ready, you’ll also want to prevent weeds from growing in your lawn too. What good is a beautiful garden without a lush healthy lawn to complement it? Try an effective pre-emergent that will stop weed seeds from germinating. But avoid weed and feed products that could be harmful to trees and shrubs in your yard.

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19 Feb
By: Communications 0

Trapping: A Short-Term Solution to a Long-Term Problem

Raccoons, squirrels, opossums, bats, and snakes – they’re the animals homeowners love to hate. These adaptable species often invade homes in search of food and shelter. Left unchecked, they can cause thousands of dollars in damage.

Although wildlife relocation may seem like a humane option, the practice can be costly, ineffective, and detrimental to animals. Frustrated homeowners often turn to pest-control companies for wildlife removal, only to discover their services are ineffective.

Short-Term Solution

In most cases, relocated animals cannot adapt to their new surroundings, no matter how lush their new home appears. Species that stockpile large quantities of food, such as squirrels, are especially prone to starvation if moved too far away from their food source. According to a 2004 study by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, 97 percent of gray squirrels relocated to a forest either died or disappeared from their release site within three months. Other times, these newcomers are killed by rival animals defending their territory or by speeding vehicles.

The animals that survive relocation often come back to haunt well-meaning homeowners. Because Texas law requires some species to be released within 10 miles of their trap site, many relocated animals return home within a few days of being released. Mothers who are separated from their babies are especially determined to return to the nesting site. In fact, it’s not uncommon for homeowners to pay a pest-control company to relocate an animal multiple times, not realizing that the same animal has returned. The best option is to keep animals within their native habitat to maintain balance in the area.

The data-supported reason for this is found in the adage: nature abhors a vacuum. Relocate 100 raccoons, and 102 will move back. When animals are removed from their territory, it’s like putting up a flashing vacancy sign. If a species’ population drops below a critical level, females will have more litters per year, and the litter size increases accordingly.

How to Protect Your Home

Animals target homes with accessible outdoor food and damaged exteriors. Once an animal enters your home, you need to decide the seriousness of the situation. Is it simply a bird’s nest on your porch or a rat’s nest in your walls? If you can’t wait for the animal to leave, act fast! Ridding a home of animals in the winter and fall is much easier than in the spring and summer when babies are likely involved.

First, locate all possible entry points for wildlife. To monitor the movement of wildlife within your home, you can stuff entry points with balled-up paper or plastic grocery bags. If the material hasn’t been moved in three to four days, it’s safe to repair the area. If you discover an area in use by wildlife, experts recommend making the area uncomfortable so the animal will leave.

Non-lethal methods, such as bright lights, loud music, Cayenne pepper, and mothballs, can turn a quiet den perfect for nesting into an undesirable location. If these methods work, the animal may decide to leave temporarily for a more comfortable den. To ensure these animals don’t return, repair all entry points and remove all food sources.

Unfortunately, most wildlife-removal techniques are costly and rarely work once you develop an infestation. That’s why the best tactic is always prevention. You can make your home less attractive to wildlife by making the following improvements:

  • Don’t leave pet food and water outside (If you feed strays, only set food out at certain times and remove it promptly afterward).
  • Ensure trash can lids are secure. To prevent determined visitors, secure trash lids with cords. Keep firewood and logs at least 2 feet above the ground.
  • Make sure branches do not extend over or near your roof (Keep in mind squirrels can jump 9 feet horizontally).
  • Repair any holes or weak points in the siding. Look for entry points near exhaust fan openings, kitchen and bathroom vents, chimneys, and above gutters.

By following these tips, homeowners can save money and address the cause of an animal invasion rather than treating the symptom.

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19 Feb
By: Communications 0

Humble ISD’s Mosaic Program Adopts Trail

Students with Humble ISD’s Mosaic program recently traveled to Jones Park to officially kick off their participation in the park’s Adopt-A-Trail Program. As part of their commitment, students will dedicate at least one year to removing invasive species and clearing the area along Jones Park’s River Birch Trail.

The Mosaic program, which serves special education students over 18, provides learning and recreational opportunities for program participants transitioning into adulthood. Students practice independent living and social skills, gain real-world job experience, and volunteer in the community. Tim Craig, a paraeducator with the Mosaic Program, selected Jones Park’s Adopt-A-Trail Program to fulfill the volunteering component of the program.

“The outdoors has always brought me so much joy, and I wanted to share that passion with our Mosaic students,” said Craig. “Volunteering in the community is something our students can take ownership in, inspiring stewardship and service.”

Jones Park’s Adopt-A-Trail Program is an opportunity for groups of all sizes and types to sponsor a section of Jones Park’s extensive trail system. Sponsoring groups commit to maintaining a trail by controlling invasive, non-native plants and conducting selective vegetation management. The initial workday begins with a short training session in invasive-plant identification and removal. Each group dedicates a minimum of one year to maintaining their trail by conducting a 3- to 4-hour volunteer workday approximately every three months.

“The trail adoption program is a great opportunity for those who are trying to get outdoors more,” said Jones Park Volunteer Coordinator Kim Hammond. “The students will be helping improve the park for both guests and native wildlife.”

Any organization or group can adopt a trail, including scouts, schools, churches, home-school groups, conservation organizations, and companies in need of volunteer hours for its employees. There is no maximum or minimum size group, as each is assigned a section of Jones Park’s trail system based on the number of participants.

If your organization or group is interested in adopting a trail, contact Jones Park staff at 281-446-8588 or at jjp@hcp4.net.

Jones Park staff wishes to thank all the groups that take part in our Adopt-A-Trail program, including Holy Trinity Episcopal School, Jesse Jones Park Volunteers, Robbins Chevrolet & Nissan, and YES Prep. Your commitment helps Jones Park remain in a natural and native state for the benefit of wildlife and park visitors.

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