Harvey lost its battle against the Police Memorial because Buffalo Bayou Partnership volunteers cleaned things up

Tom Kennedy

Silt, debris and trash defaced the local treasure known as the Houston Police Memorial

after Hurricane Harvey inundated the Bayou City with its seemingly endless flow of flood waters.

But what the world has learned is that Houston is STRONG!

The strong will and determination of 327 volunteers from the Buffalo Bayou Partnership (BBP) calmed the aftermath of those raging waters when they logged 996.5 hours sprucing up the memorial which honors 114 fallen heroes.

So volunteers got the job done and no police entity had to hire a contractor at major expense to clean up the problem.

Initially, some officer might have thought that Public Works and Engineering would have to hire a contractor to clean up what is actually on the city property rolls as a city park. That, too, was not needed.

Then the Badge & Gun learned that the non-profit Buffalo Bayou Partnership considers the maintenance of the memorial as one of its statutory duties.

Leticia Sierra, BBP volunteer coordinator, explained that “our mission is to revitalize Buffalo Bayou over the 10-mile stretch from Shepherd East to the Port of Houston Ship Channel. We revitalize and transform by adding and park spaces.”

And maintaining the park spaces like the Police Memorial after a hurricane strikes Houston.

Sierra’s volunteers didn’t waste any time, either. They took their barrels and rakes and hoes on-site beginning Sept. 15 and worked diligently until the spruce-up was completed two weeks later.

“This was our priority, our first project(in the Harvey aftermath),” Sierra explained. “The volunteers did the hard part and we came in afterwards and did the rest of it. We recruit them, host them and hydrate them.”

These hard-working volunteers picked up trash and removed silt and debris from one end of the premises to the curbs of Memorial Drive.

The Houston Police Officers Union showed its appreciation by furnishing Chick Fil-A sandwiches to each volunteer. Vice Presidents Doug Griffith and Joe Gamaldi offered bright smiles and words of encouragement throughout the project, Sierra said.

She went on to explain that the BBP staff used hoses to flush water through drain pipes leading from the memorial to the bayou. “We flush water in and out from the bayou to the pit to wash off the sediment and sand so the water would drain back underneath.”

“We used a lot of man and woman power,” Sierra added. “Joe Gamaldi and Doug Griffith treated them to lunch and gave gratitude to them and showed that they were very appreciative.”

The Buffalo Bayou Partnership was established in 1986 as the non-profit that transforms and revitalizes the bayou, “Houston’s most significant natural resource.”

Spokeswoman Trudi Smith said that the partnership gets support from foundations, corporations, individuals and government agencies. It has “leveraged more than $150 million for the redevelopment and stewardship of the waterfront – spearheading award-winning projects such as Buffalo Bayou Park and Sabine Promenade.”

Smith said funding also  has been provided for “protecting land for future parks, constructing hike and bike trails, and operating comprehensive clean-up and maintenance programs.”

BBP also seeks ways to activate Buffalo Bayou through pedestrian, boating and biking amenities; volunteer activities; permanent and temporary art installations; and wide-ranging tours and events that attract thousands.

Buffalo Bayou Partnership’s recent successes include:

  • Completed the $58 million Buffalo Bayou Park project that includes major destinations, landscaping, footpaths, lighting and pedestrian bridges. Buffalo Bayou Partnership maintains and operates Buffalo Bayou Park, with annual funding provided by the Downtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) No. 3.
  • Renovated the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, a historic underground drinking water reservoir, and opened it to the public. Over 36,000 visitors experienced the inaugural art installation in the Cistern.
  • Finished construction of one of Buffalo Bayou’s most unique trail segments under a network of downtown streets. Connecting Smith Street at Sesquicentennial Park to Milam Street near Allen’s Landing, this segment completes a five-mile stretch of the bayou from Shepherd Drive to Milam Street.
  • Continued planning for a downtown trail segment linking Allen’s Landing to McKee Street and East End trails.
  • Completed development of Buffalo Bend Nature Park, a 10-acre park near the Port of Houston Turning Basin, providing trails, overlook, interpretive signage and three wetland ponds to treat diverted storm water and enhance wildlife habitat.
  • Engaged more than 3,000 volunteers in 2016 in tree and wildflower plantings, invasive species removal and other beautification and clean-up efforts.
  • Completed renovation of the historic Sunset Coffee Building at Allen’s Landing. In addition to BBP’s administrative office, the building will house a coffee café operated by project partner Houston First, rooftop terrace, boat/bicycle rental facility and outdoor plaza.
  • Began a master planning process for Buffalo Bayou’s East Sector (for the area from McKee Street east to the Port of Houston Turning Basin).
  • Continued sponsorship of the Skimmer Boat and Clean & Green programs where community service workers collect and remove litter and debris from Buffalo Bayou, its tributaries and the Port of Houston.