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Preserving Greenspaces

Back in the late 1960s, 11-year-old Barbara Conley ran through the woods along Spring Creek barefoot in search of blackberries. She and her family ambled along the banks hunting for Native American arrowheads. As teenagers, she and her friends walked across a tree that had fallen in the creek to picnic on a nearby sandy bar. In the evenings, her family dined on perch and other fish caught on the trotlines Conley tended to each day. Though Conley lived along Spring Creek almost 50 years ago, not a whole lot has changed. 

Back in the late 1960s, 11-year-old Barbara Conley ran through the woods along Spring Creek barefoot in search of blackberries. She and her family ambled along the banks hunting for Native American arrowheads. As teenagers, she and her friends walked across a tree that had fallen in the creek to picnic on a nearby sandy bar. In the evenings, her family dined on perch and other fish caught on the trotlines Conley tended to each day. Though Conley lived along Spring Creek almost 50 years ago, not a whole lot has changed.

“To this day, as you walk toward the back of Timber Lakes subdivision, the world drops down. It’s heavily wooded with 60-foot pine trees and so much wildlife,” she says. “The forests along Spring Creek look nearly the same as they looked over 200 years ago during the time of the Akokisa Indians,” says Dennis Johnston, Precinct 4 parks administrator.

Precinct 4’s Spring Creek Greenway preserves more than 3,400 acres of this greenspace along the creek and is home to a wide array of plants, fungi, and wildlife, including Bald Eagles, Osprey, bobcats, coyotes, armadillos, opossums, and deer. The Flow of Life One of the first residents of Timber Lakes subdivision, Conley and her family lived along the banks of Spring Creek for six years in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

“The creek was always teeming with life. There were times of the year that the creek ran so clear you could see all the way to the bottom. Other times, it was as cloudy as coffee with milk,” she says. “When Panther Creek and the other streams started filling with water, we knew Spring Creek would start rising. And when we could see Spring Creek from our house, it was time to put our valuables up high and leave for higher ground.”

That rising water is exactly why preservation of the forested areas along the creek is so important. “The creek needs elbow room to overflow onto the floodplain,” Johnston says. Other areas of Harris County with channelized waterways and heavy development have paid the price with major flooding issues, according to Johnston. “Spring Creek is one of the last remaining natural waterways in Harris County. When the creek overflows, the forested banks act like a sponge, soaking up floodwaters and filtering out pollutants.” That filtered water eventually finds its way into Lake Houston, a local water source. After high school, Conley moved to Dallas, where she’s been ever since. Her parents stayed in Timber Lakes subdivision for 30 years, relocating to high ground after six years of living near the banks of Spring Creek.

“The pace of life was slower then. Kids could run around the woods and didn’t have to be watched so carefully. Neighbors had coffee together in the morning,” she says. “My daddy taught me how to nail a catfish to a tree for cleaning, and we ate fresh fish from Spring Creek five times a week. I spent so much time out in nature. I can show you where all the springs are, where the water comes out of the ground and feeds the creek.”

 When Conley’s own daughter was six years old, she took her back to the woods of her childhood. “I had her close her eyes and wouldn’t let her open them until we were underneath a 300-year-old oak tree, about a quarter of a mile from Spring Creek. She opened her eyes, looked up, and couldn’t believe what she was seeing. She was absolutely in awe of its beauty.” The area remains close to Conley’s heart, and she returns from time to time to sit at the base of that old oak tree. “I sit by that tree and talk to my mom and dad. They passed away years ago, but when I’m sitting there, I’m home.”



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