Perhaps the crowning jewel of outdoor areas in The Energy Corridor is Terry Hershey Park, a six-mile or so haven of winding trails, open spaces and forests nestled along Buffalo Bayou that’s become a popular destination drawing walkers, cyclists and alfresco enthusiasts from across Houston.
But if it wasn’t for Terry Hershey, one of Texas’s most recognizable environmentalists who passed recently at the age of 94, that park might not exist. At the least it would have far less natural beauty.
Hershey, who founded the Bayou Preservation Association, saved Buffalo Bayou from being turned into a concrete channel at a time when government wasn’t big on informing local residents of its actions.
“Terry brought an environmental awareness to Houston and was the catalyst for such a movement when it was needed the most,” says Robert Rayburn landscape architect for The Energy Corridor District and President of Bayou Preservation Association. “Terry always bowed from the limelight. She often said her legacy was to get the right people together to do the right thing. That she did.”
A native Texan, Hershey is often credited as the catalyst behind what has become a vigorous environmental movement in Houston.
But Hershey’s fervor for preserving Houston’s natural beauty began in 1966 when neighbors along Buffalo Bayou told her that bulldozers were clearing land to begin an Army Corps of Engineers and Harris County bayou channelization project for flood control complete with concrete-lined banks.
Rebuffed by Harris County officials, Hershey was undeterred and relentless in her efforts to preserve the bayou. She eventually succeeded in having county commissioners halt the project temporarily. Hershey then doubled down by adding in the political firepower of freshman Congressman George H.W. Bush and oilman/developer George Mitchell.
Hershey, who Bush called “a force of nature for nature,” launched several conservation groups, including the Bayou Preservation Association, and was appointed to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission where she advocated strongly for establishing parks and preserving Texas’ natural gems.
“She will forever be missed by the people she touched,” says Rayburn.
And the legions of Houstonians who enjoy Terry Hershey Park and a Buffalo Bayou that’s home to scores of plants and animals.