May 24, 2022

Library’s Outdoor Expansion Is a Hoot!

The outdoor expansion over at the Library is starting to take shape, most recently with the completion of an absolutely stunning tree trunk sculpture by artist Jim Phillips.  Sadly, this water oak was one of several trees that we lost as a result of the February 2021 deep freeze, in this case due to direct freeze damage and the onset of Hypoxylon canker disease.  Though the tree could not be saved, we’re thrilled its trunk has been transformed into a beautiful work of art to enhance this new greenspace amenity.  Symbolic of the virtues of wisdom and knowledge, three owls are perched atop a stack of books, welcoming and inspiring patrons to take advantage of and enjoy the many resources and programming the Library has to offer.

Local non-profit Patrons for Bellaire Parks initiated the outdoor expansion project last year in partnership with the City, and with input from our citizen Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.  Patrons provided the funding for it, supplemented by a contribution from the Friends of the Bellaire Library.  In the “back yard” behind the building is a new and improved interactive educational area for children, featuring a much-needed shade structure, sensory garden planters, creative play pieces and more.  The outdoor reading area on the lot next door, overseen by the owls, is more passive in nature and will include picnic tables, chess tables with sets available for checkout, benches and public Wi-Fi.

The project has been coming along in stages, starting with the addition of a pecan tree donated by Patrons and dedicated as part of Planting Palooza last April, followed by the installation of new fencing earlier this year.  This month things are really starting to pick up as components are delivered and put in place, and another replacement tree has been planted.  We’re not quite there yet but getting closer, and are so excited to introduce this wonderful outdoor community space.  Our sincere thanks once again to Patrons and the Friends, and all of their supporters, for making it happen.

May 6, 2022

Town Hall Meeting on Flood Risk Management - May 16, 6:00 p.m.

When you look at this image, what do you see:  an unacceptably flooded street, or a cost-effective use of the right-of-way to protect structures from flooding?  What measure of improvement are we trying to achieve, with what kinds of projects, over what timeframe, how prioritized, and how funded?  These are among the policy questions on which the City Council seeks your input in refining our approach to flood risk management.

Having last month initiated this latest round of discussions with an introductory presentation, followed by two workshop sessions, we’ll next host a town hall meeting on May 16.  Similar to a public hearing, the purpose of a town hall is two-fold:  to present information concerning matters of public interest, and to receive public comment on them.  Questions from the public may be referred to staff as appropriate.

Flooding is obviously an ongoing, long-term challenge, and we don’t intend the outcome of these current discussions to be the final word.  Rather, the objective is to provide clear and actionable direction to staff that will inform the continued development of a well-thought-out and comprehensive infrastructure improvement program.  While further study will be necessary in evaluating potential solutions and fleshing out our plans, we must also be prepared to act quickly on constructing high-yield, near-term projects that could be implemented in collaboration with regional partners, and to take advantage of outside funding opportunities as they arise.

Our goal is to reach consensus on the high-level policy questions soon, as budget season is now getting underway.  This will allow us to plan activities that represent real and tangible steps toward reducing flood risk for our residents, whether that means identifying specific projects for funding, or at least setting expectations for how staff time and resources should be spent over the coming year.  Public input is essential to the process, and we look forward to your participation.