Nonprofit seeks to raise awareness of trash in the Bering Ditch canal
Houston, December 19, 2017 – As part of its community education initiative and Trash Fee Bayous Program, the Bayou Preservation Association took part in the 4th Annual Guatemala Parade in Southwest Houston this past weekend to bring awareness to the trash and pollution issues in the Bering Ditch, a 2.7- mile drainage canal which runs from Westpark Drive north to Buffalo Bayou. The parade, organized by Centro Organizativo Guatemalteco (COGUA) and Southwest American Systems Chamber of Commerce, is a celebration of Guatemalan cultural heritage, independence and contributions to the Houston community. The parade route passed directly over the trash-strewn Bering Ditch, visible below Windswept Drive and Beverly Hill Street.
Hundreds of area residents from nearby apartments and businesses came out to watch the passing parade participants, many in brightly colored folkloric costumes, either on foot or in decked-out trucks that served as floats. Children and adults of all ages came together to show pride for Houston’s Guatemalan community, many of whom live in Southwest Houston within close proximity of the Bering Ditch. Music, song and dance were abundant.
The Guatemala Parade is the brainchild of Roland Gramajo, a native of Guatemala, who is a 20-year resident of the area and a Wisdom High School (formerly Robert E. Lee) graduate. A civic activist and community leader, Gramajo has been instrumental in improving the quality of life for those in Houston’s Guatemalan community. He organized the first parade in 2014 and was able to secure a 2012 proclamation from then-Mayor Annise Parker designating December 17 as “Guatemalan American Holiday.”
In 2016, Gramajo was put in contact with the Bayou Preservation Association about joining its Non-Point Source Pollution Prevention Committee, (NPSPPC) chaired by Bayou Preservation Association board member Richard Cate. The mission of the NPSPPC is to develop short- and long-term strategies to prevent trash from entering the bayous, streams and waterways of the Greater Houston region. Bayou Preservation Association launched the Trash Free Bayous pilot program, targeting the Bering Ditch, one of the most littered waterways in the Houston area and a major contributor of floatable litter in Buffalo Bayou. Examples of large trash items found in this ditch are tires, shopping carts and mattresses.
“It’s critical to educate the community about why improper trash disposal poses a threat to our waterways, fish and other wildlife,” says Cate. “Bayou Preservation Association is excited to engage with members of the Guatemalan community in this area so close to the Bering Ditch.”
“When people understand how detrimental this pollution is to all of us, they will learn to make informed choices about trash disposal and hopefully, recycling,” Cate continues. “All litter from our watersheds ultimately ends up in Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.”
The primary source point of litter in the Bering Ditch is along the southern portion of the canal from Westpark to Westheimer. (The ditch is approximately one mile west of The Galleria.) One of Bayou Preservation Association’s strategies will be to test how enhancements within the Bering Ditch right-of-way, such as trails, additional trash receptacles, shelters and landscape improvements, impact the way people take responsibility for the disposal of their trash. This means changing the behavior of those who currently use the right-of-way.
Residents stopped by information booths set up near the Bering Ditch by the Bayou Preservation Association, SCA (Student Conservation Association) and the Houston Department of Health’s Bureau of Pollution Control and Prevention, all organizations which promote prevention of pollution of the environment. SCA volunteers came out to pick up trash all along the parade route and deposit it in a trailer attached to the pickup truck driven by Bayou Preservation Association board president Robert Rayburn. The Bayou Preservation Association’s vehicle, which “brought up the rear,” was outfitted with signage in both Spanish and English with the messages “Congratulations to the Guatemalan Community” and “Help keep our community litter free!”
Rayburn was pleased with the turnout and the opportunity to engage with a new audience. “Roland Gramajo has been invaluable in connecting us with the Guatemalan community in Houston,” he says. “We hope we can continue to partner with Roland and other area stakeholders in spreading the message of bayou stewardship. Neighborhood revitalization begins one step at a time.”
About Bayou Preservation Association
The mission of the Bayou Preservation Association is to celebrate, protect and restore the natural richness of all our bayous and streams, with a vision of a network of healthy bayous, streams and watersheds. It works to Increase understanding of area bayous and creeks and their watersheds by providing educational programs and opportunities, activities and events to engage all the region’s demographics. Bayou Preservation Association also strives to expand stewardship and stewardship opportunities to improve the health of our watersheds, creeks, and bayous. For more information or to get involved, visit bayoupreservation.org or call 713-529-6443. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.