Navigating the Potholes to Restore an Urban Prairie at Willow Waterhole

  • Guest Speakers:  Carolyn White and Stephen Benigno of the Harris County Flood Control District
  • June 12, 2014 @7:30 PM – Refreshments @ 7:15 PM
  • The Public is invited.
  • Houston Sierra Club General Meeting @ St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Pecore Hall
  • 1805 West Alabama at the corner of Woodhead – Parking lot behind the church
  • For more information contact:  Evelyn L. Merz at

Art and Science are both needed when navigating the potholes to restore an urban prairie.  The Houston Sierra Club welcomes staff from the Environmental Services Division of the Harris County Flood Control District to hear about their work-in-progress to restore a degraded prairie in a corner of the Willow Waterhole Stormwater Detention Basin in the Brays Bayou watershed.  This may well bethe signature restoration project of the Harris County Flood Control District.

Although the prairie is still a work in progress, the project involves more than finding an ecological balance between the open prairie and the trees and brush that gradually began to dominate the site .  The restoration’s success hinges upon cementing a supportive relationship with the residents of the adjacent community.  HCFCD is balancing the neighbors’ desire to maximize the number of trees remaining at the site with the need to prevent encroachment in the prairie.

Within the 15-acre prairie conservation area is a population of the endangered Prairie Dawn plant (Hymenoxys texana), which HCFCD is protecting.  The prairie around the prairie dawn will be years in the restoration, but the removal of invasive yaupon and other woody species is allowing prairie grasses to recover.

Two speakers will share the spotlight.  Carolyn White is a Project Manager for HCFCD’s Environmental Services Division.  She currently manages projects under the water quality and revegetation programs, including wetland planting for water quality enhancement, prairie management, detention basin layout, water quality monitoring, and preparation of landscape and planting plans for capital improvement projects.  Stephen Benigno is the Revegetation and Site Stabilization Coordinator for HCFCD’s Environmental Services Division. He currently supports and manages projects under the water quality and revegetation programs, including wetland planting for water quality enhancement, prairie management, water quality monitoring, endangered species monitoring, and vegetation enhancement and soil stabilization studies.

If you would like to check out some references before the meeting, you can see the prairie conservation area location on the east side of South Post Oak Blvd. within Compartment #3 of Willow Waterhole, at .  There is a list of all the plants  within the site’s Coastal Prairie Management Plan for at .


Photo of group at Willow Waterhole from an email sent by HCFCD’s Kimberlye Jackson; Photo of Fringed puccoon sent by Flo Hannah.


Restore an Urban Prairie at Willow Waterhole by HCFCD



(You  may preview our not quite ready for prime time new website at ; eventually the website will be More HNPAT News will be sent on April 23.)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Prairie Wildlife Series – Part II:

The Prairie – Bird Connection

by Glenn Olsen, Tour Guide for GOBirding Ecotours

Location:  3015 Richmond Ave. 77057 (Parking lot entrance on Eastside St.),

First Floor Conference Room

Earth Month prairie related activities & HNPAT Meeting

6:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Refreshments & Earth Month Activity:  Make a seedling pot out of used newspaper or toilet paper roll or egg cartons. Decorate pot with color markers. Fill the pot with soil & plant Indian Blanket seeds.

7:00 p.m. Meeting starts:  Did you know that approximately two-thirds of the birds found on our local prairies are migratory? In addition to our resident birds, our prairies also host tropical travelers flocking up from the forests of Central America as well as tundra birds from the great north. Join noted bird expert Glenn Olsen as he reveals the key role that our prairie plays in the survival of this highly diverse bird community: residents, neo-tropicals, and neartic migrants. Glenn, who leads bird tours for a variety of organizations, will give insights into seasonal birding hotspots.

About Glenn Olsen: Contact Glenn or  Glenn Olsen leads natural history and birding tours with GOBirding Ecotours and teaches Bird Identification, Landscaping for Birds and Butterflies, and nature related classes / programs / field trips through Rice University’s Continuing Studies Department, Houston Audubon, the Texas Master Naturalist, Katy Prairie Conservancy, Galveston FestherFest, Rockport Hummer/Bird Festival, and more.  Glenn has monitored endangered Attwater’s Prairie Chickens at the Nature Conservancy’s Texas City Preserve, and co-founded the Wildscapes Workshop through the Native Plant Society of Texas, where he served as president.  Glenn has led trips to such exotic locales as Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, Costa Rica and the hottest birding locations in the U.S.   


Coming on Thursday, May 22, 2014:

Prairie Wildlife Series Part III:

“SURVIVORS:  Conserving Prairie Wildlife in the Age of the Sixth Extinction”

by Jaime Gonzalez, Conservation Education Director of Katy Prairie Conservancy and President of Coastal Prairie Partnership

Did you know that Houston has been home to a grassland for over 100,000 years? During this time the prairie has seen a parade of stampeding elephants, voracious lions, migrating buffalo, and howling wolves. Today’s prairie survivors have overcome two great survival bottlenecks but can they survive what has been called the sixth extinction – the rapid, modern decline in biodiversity playing out worldwide? Join Jaime González as he surveys the incredible diversity of wildlife that survivor on local prairies and get to know the magnificent creatures from times past.

Saturday, May 24, 2014:
Damien Carey will be leading a birding tour at Deer Park Prairie at 8:00 am. RSVP to this email required because we will email parking instructions, which is dependent on the number of RSVPs.

State of the Prairie Conference | Fort Worth, Texas
May 29-31, 2014 | Click here to go Conference Page now.

Thur, 4/24/14: HNPAT Meeting & Earth Day Event