Community park leads to a conservation spark

By Royce Daniels, Houston Audubon Young Professionals Advisory Council

One thing I consistently hear people say is that Houston has no natural beauty. If you are reading this, you probably know that is false, at least for the Greater Houston area which is ecologically rich! But in some underserved communities, not having access to some of these beautiful places in Houston is a reality. As an African American male, I personally want to help change that. Recently, I have been involved in efforts to change this perceived stereotype and facilitate greater access to nature for more people by drawing attention to E.R. and Ann Taylor Park.

The park is an unheralded jewel of the Sunnyside community with a rich history. The story begins in 1863 when Edward Ruthven (ER) Taylor, the son of a prominent Houston cotton broker, was captured and held as a prisoner of war. He was released when he became very ill, and his father purchased a young slave woman name Ann to care for him in his recovery. Ed and Ann fell in love and had several children. To raise their children in peace, they purchased 600 acres located in what was then considered the country – what we now know as Sunnyside in southeast Houston. In 1921, oil was discovered by Hugh Roy Cullen, and this operation became the proving ground for the revolutionary rotary rock-piercing drill bit on which Howard Hughes profited greatly. Part of the property is a working ranch run by the descendants of E.R. and Ann Taylor. The land has been passed down from generation to generation and in the 1980’s the family donated 26 of the 600 acres to the City of Houston to form a park – E.R. and Ann Taylor Park.

This hidden gem is not well known, and I’ve gotten involved with some recent community efforts to help clean the park and offer opportunities to explore nature through birding. The park provides an oasis for birds and people in the middle of a largely classic urban landscape. For me, walking through the park is like walking back in time. The park gives a window into what Houston must have looked like decades ago. I’ve birded this park several times over the past couple of years and was honored to be part of an effort to introduce this wonderful place to residents of the Sunnyside community.

Last weekend, Houston Audubon led a bird walk with the Nature Heritage Society, a community-based nature organization in Sunnyside. Cin-Ty Lee and I led the bird walk and it was so much fun! Despite the rain, we had a good turnout and managed to see some quality birds. The residents were excited to learn more about the park, its history and natural beauty, and yes, BIRDS they had never seen before. This was a great example of sparking a love for nature and I was so happy to be a part of it. 

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