Sheldon Lake restoration project recognized with Houston Proud Partner Award

October 06, 2015

By Rebecca DaVanon

Houston, Texas – This November will mark the 12th anniversary of groundbreaking prairie wetland restoration work at Sheldon Lake State Park (SLSP) in Houston, Texas, and Mayor Annise Parker and Keep Houston Beautiful have taken notice. On October 26, 2015, the SLSP Prairie Wetland Restoration Project led by the Texas Coastal Watershed Program (TCWP), a partnership of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the Texas Sea Grant College Program at Texas A&M University, will be honored with a Proud Partner Award at the 31st Annual Mayor’s Proud Partners Luncheon for its restoration of over 300 acres of critically endangered prairie wetland habitat within the city limits of Houston.

According to Keep Houston Beautiful, the Mayor’s Proud Partners Awards “serve to distinguish those who demonstrate continued commitment to Houston’s vibrancy and serve as an inspiration for others towards greater environmental stewardship.”

“Wetlands are a vital part of Texas natural areas and support many recreational and commercial activities, mitigate the impacts of flooding, filter pollutants, recharge reservoirs and groundwater, and provide habitat for wildlife,” said Marissa Sipocz, TCWP Wetland Program Manager and the leader of the restoration project. “Through its partnerships in restoration, the SLSP Prairie Wetland Restoration Project has re-created an important historical landscape for the citizens of Houston and restored a valuable habitat for native flora and fauna.”

The restoration project has been under way as long as some of its younger volunteers have been alive. Starting in November 2003, TCWP, in partnership with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), undertook and completed the restoration of 136 acres of prairie wetland habitat at SLSP using the new and cost-effective “Sheldon-Sipocz” methodology for wetland restoration, named for the park and TPWD’s Andrew Sipocz, who pioneered the method. An additional 72 acres of wetland habitat is slated for restoration in 2015. Additional funding for restoration work was provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Galveston Bay Estuary Program/Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Because it is within the boundaries of the state park, this restoration and its associated values to the community and its habitat will remain protected in perpetuity.    

TCWP’s Wetland Restoration Team (WRT), an Extension and Texas Master Naturalist partnership, has been pivotal in leadership, both in wetland planting at SLSP and in education. The WRT has provided more than 10,000 volunteer hours and mentored local students who have themselves provided almost 3,600 volunteer hours to the project. YES Prep Public Schools have been a key partner at SLSP, with other volunteer groups, including the Kingwood, Kingwood Park, Tarkington, Atascosita, Quest, Challenge, Clear Brook, and Humble High Schools, home school groups, NRG Energy and the Student Conservation Association also assisting in restoration efforts.

Extension will host its annual Wetland Field Day at SLSP on October 29th, 2015, where participants can learn about the innovative restoration method and visit the restoration effort. This free, all-day event with provided lunch is open to the general public. RSVP is required, so those interested in attending should contact TCWP’s Sipocz at 281-450-9674 or m-sipocz@tamu.edu by October 21, 2015.

Media Note: For further information, contact Marissa Sipocz at 281-450-9674 or m-sipocz@tamu.edu.  Photos are available upon request.

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Texas Sea Grant is a unique partnership that unites the resources of the federal government, the State of Texas and universities across the state to create knowledge, tools, products and services that benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens of Texas. It is administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is one of 33 university-based Sea Grant Programs around the country. Texas Sea Grant is a non-academic research center in the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University. The program’s mission is to improve the understanding, wise use and stewardship of Texas coastal and marine resources.