Shady Lane Park and Importance of Bayous in Houston
Shady Lane Park is a jewel in the Houston park system. The name of the park gives no hint as to what is found there. Yes there are trees, so obviously there is shade if visiting this park when the deciduous trees are fully leafed out. My husband and I visited this Houston park in the winter. It was a blustery cold day so there were hardly any people in the park at the time of our visit. Yet we were delighted with our discovery and I am happy to tell you about it.
There is a community center in this Shady Lane Park. Houston has 60 community centers scattered throughout areas where there are also parks. Many of them have a variety of programs as well as fitness activities. Programs include those for children as well as adults.
The hours posted at this community center are the following:
- Monday – Friday (fall, winter and spring) are 11 A.M to 7 P.M
- Monday – Friday (summer hours) are 8 A.M. to 7 P.M.
- Closed Saturdays and Sundays
Signs posted inside the building directed people to the Head Start programs at some of the other centers. Information regarding summer enrichment programs was also provided.
The summer weight room schedule was posted for participants as follows:
- Ladies Hour 8 A.M. to 9:30 A.M. Monday – Friday
- Open Hours 4 P.M to 7 P.M Monday – Friday
- No children allowed
Zumba classes were offered in another room that looked as if it was multi-purpose. Those hours were the following:
- 8 A.M. to 9 A.M Monday to Friday
- 6 P.M to 7 P.M Monday to Thursday
Shady Lane Community Garden
The Shady Lane community garden is probably a beehive of activity as I am writing this in July of this year. On June 3rd people were invited to learn about gardening from 9 A.M to noon free of charge. Healthy cooking demonstrations with free food samples were given to attendees.
Raised garden beds make it easier for people to garden. The fencing around the garden plots help to dissuade deer and other animals from helping themselves to the produce once it is grown.
Another feature of the park undoubtedly being well attended during our sizzling hot Houston summers is the sprayground water feature. Kids galore would be cooling off now in this area of the park. Picnic tables under a shade structure would provide seating for the watchful eyes of parents keeping an eye on their youngsters.
Spray Park hours posted are from dawn to dusk. Some of the rules posted include the following:
- Non-Service animals prohibited.
- Changing diapers within 6 feet of water feature prohibited.
- Use of water feature when ill with contagious diseases prohibited.
- Do not drink water from water feature.
- Use of water feature when ill with diarrhea is prohibited.
- Footwear recommended—along with many other common sense rules posted at all water features in Houston parks.
Flood Retention Waters
The City of Houston acquired the 12.4 acres of this park back in 1958. Following the severe flooding that took place in 1989 from Tropical Storm Allison, additional property was purchased by the Harris County Flood Control District. This property is utilized along Halls Bayou for flood retention and 68 acres of it abuts Shady Lane Park.
Bayou Theme in Shady Lane Park
In 2013 a major renovation was undertaken and what has become a large bayou-themed playground as well as education center was developed. This is what truly makes this park distinctive from other Houston parks.
Instead of a regular path people can walk along a concrete simulated “waterway” that leads to different areas of the park. The blue painted “waterway” simulates a bayou and signs along the way tell of the importance of what bayous do for our environment.
Signs Explaining Importance of Bayou Systems
Some of the signs show the following information:
“Wildlife of all kinds LOVE our bayous and wetlands. Stream-side forests called riparian zones shelter mammals and birds, and help keep the bayou’s banks from wearing down (erosion.) Bayous and stormwater basins attract thristy wildlife, and provide a home to fish as well. Bayous add fresh water to salty Galveston Bay, home to natural sea-life nurseries called estuaries.”
Some images of fish and animals on this sign showed the following:
- common rabbit
- white tailed deer
- large mouth bass
- and the American alligator.
“Basins are built for flood damage reduction, but birds love them too! Houston sits along a major migration path – the Central Flyway. Many colorful birds stop here on their long journey from South and Central America to Canada, and back again. Look for feathered travelers in the spring, resting after their flight across the Gulf of Mexico. Other birds such as the great blue heron, live here all year.”
Some of the bird images on this sign included the following:
- Great Egret
- Great Blue Heron
- Roseate Spoonbill
- Black-bellied Whistling Duck
- Spotted Sandpiper
- Snowy Egret
- Little Blue Heron
“Bretshire Stormwater Detention Basin straddles Halls Bayou. It fills like a big lake during heavy rain, and safely releases stormwater back to Halls Bayou as water levels fall. Wetland ponds inside the basin filter stormwater from surrounding neighborhoods, sending cleaner water into Halls Bayou!”
“Bayous are part of the water cycle too! Rain falls from the sky onto areas of land called watersheds, which drain into their own bayou or creek. You’re standing in the Halls Bayou Watershed right now! Halls Bayou flows into Greens Bayou which in turn flows into the Houston Ship Channel, and on into Galveston Bay.”
“Storm drains built under the street are another way stormwater moves from our neighborhoods into our web of bayous. since it all flows into the bayous and eventually into Galveston Bay, be careful not to dump grass clippings, lawn chemicals or motor oil into the storm drain system!”
Playground Areas in Shady Lane Park
There are marvelous areas for older kids as well as adults to play but the children’s playground built with the bayou-inspired theme is what particularly drew my interest. Slides and climbing equipment suddenly took on an entirely different look with concrete fashioned hollow logs and animals seeming to be peeking out at one. The artistry in creating this playground is amazing!
There is an area that is used as an outdoor classroom. A concrete fashioned flat bottomed boat is situated in the setting of a wetland garden. Felled logs can also be used as seats.
There are hiking and biking trails as well as soccer fields in Shady Lane Park. Normally my husband and I like to do some hiking in parks—especially in new found ones for us—but it was one of those truly cold days in Houston. We even retreated to our car to eat our picnic lunch if that tells you something! At least we got an overview of what this park has to offer visitors. It is a beauty that informs people as well as entertaining them. I will leave you with one more photo and simply encourage you to visit this Houston park if you ever get the chance.