Friday, July 22, 2005

Houston Never Ceases to Surprise

In many ways, Houston is a very tiresome city. The weather is ghastly - right now going outside is akin to walking directly into a 6 foot high damp and moldy sponge. The traffic is worse. There appears to be a little known law that makes it illegal to ever complete a freeway. It's about the only traffic law Houstonians adhere to. And then there is a our complete and total lack of zoning which has resulted in an "anything goes" form of city planning. In Houston you'll find a gas station next to a McMansion with a convenience store round the corner.

This lack of zoning results in a constant tearing up and redoing of buildings, parks, streets (hence the freeway law) with nothing ever staying the same. Much of the time this is very depressing, with historic buildings disappearing right and left. But sometimes the changes are exciting.

Herman Park is our equivalent of Central Park. Over the years it had gotten scruffy and down at the heels from over use. Houston has a habit of building grand public spaces but never budgeting enough money to maintain them properly.

I was a bit early for an appointment near the park and since it was early and not yet to steamy I took a walk. I hadn't been there in years, not since my girls outgrew the going to the zoo stage.

It had recently been redone and the changes were amazing. New plantings, new paths, some areas were wildscaped, others landscaped. The lake had new borders and benches and some very happy ducks. The trash was gone and grass green and lush - nice change from the hard brown, trampled vistas of old. The old statue of Sam Houston astride his horse now frames a stunning vista of relection pool from one side and the city skyline from the other.

The view Posted by Picasa

That's what makes Houston bearable, you turn the corner and discover something new and suprising.

Sam on His Horse Posted by Picasa


Julie said...

I just can't imagine living in a place with no zoning. Ann Arbor is heavily zoned, and it causes problems, too. Mixed-use is definitely a good thing, though it sounds like Houston goes a little too far.

How nice to visit the zoo! When I take my kids I never get to see anything because I'm always running after them. And all they ever want to do is ride the carousel and buy slushy drinks.

Thao said...

I agree with all your points on Houston from the weather to the traffic and the nice surprises. I haven't been down to Herman Park lately but when I get back from my month long trip in Michgan I'm sure I'll see it. It's nice here in Midland but I sure miss home. Great entry.

Robin said...

i appreciate that entry too. and i live here even!