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Archives for January 30, 2013

CTRMA seeks input on environmental concerns for Oak Hill Parkway project

CTRMA seeks input on environmental concerns for Oak Hill Parkway project

January 29, 2013   //



Steve Pustelnyk, director of communications for the CTRMA, talks with Oak Hill resident and Fix290 member Carol Cespedes at a previous CTRMA open house/workshop event to gather input from the public on the possible Oak Hill Parkway project for the ‘Y’ area.


by Bobbie Jean Sawyer

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) will continue seeking community input on the Oak Hill Parkway project—a potential redesign of the ‘Y’ in Oak Hill—during a Jan. 31 environmental workshop meeting at 6 p.m. at the ACC Pinnacle campus on the 10th floor.

The workshop will focus on environmental concerns over the potential project. Community members who have been active in environmental issues and have previously attended meetings on the project are encouraged to attend.

Steve Pustelnyk, director of communications for the CTRMA, said environmental concerns laid out in a series of upcoming workshops would help shape the Oak Hill Parkway project as it progresses.

“What we’re trying to do now is get a little bit more into the detail of the environmental issues and concerns in the Oak Hill area so that when we move forward with the environmental study we can make sure there are no surprises along the way,” Pustelnyk said. “We’re really trying to get with the folks who are very familiar and very interested in that part of the community to understand what things we should be looking out for and considering as we move through the developments of the alternatives for the process.”

Pustelnyk said he anticipates an attendance of about 20 to 30 community members.

The workshop will include brief presentations by environmental experts on topics such as water quality and vegetation in the Oak Hill area, followed by an opportunity for attendees to share their thoughts on local environmental matters, Pustelnyk said.

The first open house meeting on the Oak Hill Parkway project was held in November of last year, allowing attendees to interact with TxDOT and Mobility Authority staff, express concerns and provide feedback to be considered in future community meetings on the project.

Pustelnyk said next week’s environmental workshop is a continuation of the conversational approach.

“It’s going to be a very interactive process,” Pustelnyk said. “We’re still in a listening phase. So we’re going to provide basic information that we’ve already acquired from past work and current work related to the environment in that area and then we’re going to ask folks for their input regarding those issues.”

Pustelnyk said while Williamson Creek and heritage trees are major points of concern, there are several other factors that have to be considered throughout the environmental impact study process.

“There are cultural things such as cemeteries and schools; any sort of facilities could be negatively impacted by a major project. We take all of those into account,” Pustelnyk said. “It’s actually far more than just the obvious things like water quality and trees.”

Pustelnyk said ideas gathered from the workshop would be considered for use in possible community enhancement projects, such as concepts garnered from the 2011 Green Mobility Project, which included urban parkland and enhanced aesthetic and landscaping features in Oak Hill.

“Elements that come out of the environmental workshop that might be applicable to the project enhancement team could be brought to that group in the future. Everything we do in these work groups could lead to elements that might be considered a project enhancement,” Pustelnyk said.

Those interested in getting involved in the Oak Hill Parkway project and tracking its progress will have plenty of opportunities, Pustelnyk said.

“We’re going to have a series of these workshops on various issues for the next two to three months and then we anticipate having another broad open house, where we’ll probably start to roll out some of the early alternatives in the late spring or early summer,” Pustelnyk said. “So by mid-year, folks will have the opportunity to see what some of the preliminary ideas and alternatives are—to start looking at mobility improvements in the area.”

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UT efficiency plan projects $490M savings

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The University of Texas could generate up to $490 million in savings and new revenue over the next decade under proposals to streamline business practices, including a possible increase in room and board for students, according to a university report released Tuesday.

Texas higher education officials are under pressure from state lawmakers to streamline efficiency and cut costs where they can, even as they press lawmakers to restore nearly $1 billion cut from higher education in the current state budget. The Legislature currently is drafting the 2014-2015 state budget.

The report unveiled by university President Bill Powers also said the school should be more aggressive in licensing research and technology.

Powers, who appointed the panel and endorsed its broad goals, said the university must still review specific ideas to see which ones it will adopt.

But Powers insisted the pursuit of better business practices should not necessarily impact the classroom. He said if Texas can save money it can spend more on its core missions of education and research, but the school won’t sacrifice teaching for economics.

“Universities, real universities, are not simply businesses,” Powers said. “Students aren’t simply customers … There is no interest in bringing a corporate mentality to strict business values to the classroom.

The report comes at a time Gov. Rick Perry and legislative leaders are pressuring universities to reign in tuition costs. In his State of the State speech, delivered about an hour after the school report was released, Perry renewed his call for universities to offer four-year tuition rates. Perry also wants 10 percent of university funding to be tied to graduation rates.

The report said housing, food and parking costs at the 50,000-student campus are below market, but did not say what the school should charge. According to the university, about 7,550 students have residence hall contracts which range from nearly $9,000 to about $15,600.

The report suggested Texas consider following Texas AM University’s lead in using a private contractor for some campus services. In 2012, Texas AM hired a private company to handle campus dining, landscaping and other services, a move Texas AM estimated would save about $260 million over 10 years.

Powers said Texas would be very cautious about moves that would raise costs on students, who have face.

“Housing and food rates are part of the cost for our students,” Powers said. “So we need to be careful.”

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Keys to the mint garden

I started working on my herb beds in the garden last week. Even though it’s too early for most herbs this is the time of year I can add another layer of mulch to the mint beds after digging out any damaged plants and weed interlopers.

The spearmint, peppermint, orange mint, double mint, apple mint and Mojito mint I grow are at their best from mid-March until early June as long as you take certain steps and understand that they can become invasive.

Mint likes moist but not too soggy soil, morning sun and mild temperatures. It bolts in June or July but you can extend the season if you plant it where it gets some protection from afternoon sun.

Light fertilizing is important, I use a diluted mix of sea kelp once in the early spring after the plants, which are cut back in August, have begun to re-emerge in the garden.

I don’t mind mint running, it makes the lawn smell good when it’s mowed, but if you do mind put a barrier around the bed sunk 6-8 inches into the ground. Mint is shallow rooted, it may flow over the top of your barrier but it doesn’t root very deep.


Ann in League City writes:

Some of my broccoli has brown spots on the crowns. What causes this?

Most likely it was our recent frost. I had some of the florets in my broccoli crowns turn brown after the frost we had a couple of weeks ago. If you want to be sure cut the top off and see if the interior of the stem is brown. I cut the damaged part out and steamed the crown, then added some fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice. It tasted just fine.

If you do cut the crown, leave plent of stalk and you make get a follow crop of side shoots.


Join Fort Bend Master Gardeners and Texas Rose Rustlers for a Rose Pruning Clinic which will include when to prune roses, best pruning methods, how to insure your tools are disease free, and a hands-on pruning opportunity. Please bring your own hand pruners, loppers, and gloves. We will meet on Saturday, February 2 at 9:00 a.m. in front of the Bud O’Shieles Community Center, 1330 Band Road, Rosenberg, 77471.


The 27th Annual Texas Home Garden Show will be held in Reliant Park, One Reliant Park beginning on Friday, Feb. 8 through Sunday, Feb. 10, 2012.

Show times are Friday, 2-8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. Among the scheduled gardening attractions are Organic Lawn Care, Landscaping Ideas, Ponds, Plants and Trees. For more information visit THE TOPIC IS ORCHIDSLaurie and Shiela Scoy are the guest speakers at the Feb. 13 League City Garden Club meeting. The topic: Orchids. Social begins at 10 a.m. with the meeting to follow at 10:30 at Tuscan Lakes Village Clubhouse, 1610 Tuscan Village Drive, League City. For more information contact Kimberly Nitzschke, club president @ 281-332-9528 or lctxgardendiva@yahoo.comSPRING HOME GARDEN SHOWDiscover fresh, new ideas at 11th annual Spring Home Garden Show at The Woodlands Saturday and Sunday, March 2 3. The show will be held at the The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel Convention Center at 1601 Lake Robbins Drive.Jim Molony is a certified Brazoria County Master Gardener. Check out our gumbo soil page on facebook. Have a gardening question? Email

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Children take a leading role in Holocaust Memorial Day

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    New EPA grant will help keep Marquette Park lagoon clean – Post

    By Michael Gonzalez
    Post-Tribune correspondent

    January 29, 2013 11:52AM

    Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, (from left) Susan Hedman, EPA Region 5 Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager, and Bill Hanna, President and CEO of the RDA, talk during a press conference at Marquette Park Pavilion announcing the RDA received a $351,073 EPA grant for storm water management around the Marquette Park lagoon in the Miller section of Gary, Ind. Tuesday January 29, 2013. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media

    Article Extras

    Updated: January 29, 2013 4:51PM

    GARY — A new $350,000 grant from the U.S. EPA will put a handful of people to work, and it will help keep the Marquette Park lagoon and other bodies of water clean.

    In the lower lounge of the newly renovated Marquette Park Pavilion, EPA administrator Susan Hedman said the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority’s application on behalf of Gary for the grant money won because of promised results and a focus on education.

    “The work we’re doing here will help restore Marquette Park as one of the premiere destinations on Lake Michigan,” Hedman said.

    The grant program, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, is competitive, and about $30 million was awarded throughout the Great Lakes region, she added. The RDA will funnel the new grant directly to the city to be used for a variety of storm water management projects.

    A few hundred feet away, crews continued dredging a variety of sediment from the lagoon, part of a $1 million EPA grant awarded to the RDA, on Gary’s behalf, last year.

    With the $350,000, Ted Miller, of the Student Conservation Alliance, said four Gary residents in the city’s brownfield training program and one SCA member will earn $200 a week, a housing stipend of $600 each and the chance to win an AmeriCorps education award of $2,000 to $3,000 in the “internship” program.

    The idea is to build natural obstacles to keep sediment from residents’ properties and the surrounding area from returning to the lagoon and contaminating it again, and educating residents on their part, Miller explained.

    The new grant money will go toward building rain gardens, bio swales, which Miller described as “fancy rain gardens,” rain barrels for residents and a public education campaign on how storm water moves into the lagoon.

    Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and RDA Executive Director Bill Hannah praised the announcement as another example of “wonderful partnerships” between the federal government, state agencies and municipalities.

    For Lauren Riga, head of the Gary’s Green Urbanism Department, projects like building up natural landscaping to filter sediment from rain run off out of the lagoon is part beefing up the city’s environmental sustainability efforts.

    “This is one way of educating the public and doing direct implementation of our green infrastructure plans,” Riga said. “It means implementing up to 30 individual projects around the lagoon and the surrounding area.”

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    Casey to carry out King’s Gardens Restoration

    Published by TheCaseyCompanies for The Casey Companies
    in Communities and also in Environment

    Tuesday 29th January 2013 – 3:16pm

    Master plan for restorationMaster plan for restoration

    Multi-disciplinary contractors P Casey (Land Reclamation) Ltd announce the winning of another prestige contract to restore the Grade 2 listed King’s Gardens in Southport for Sefton Borough Council.  This project follows closely on Casey’s BALI overall Grand Award and the Principal Award in the Restoration and Regeneration Category at the National Landscape Awards 2012 for their Lichfield Parks project,

    The £3.8m HLF funded project will provide a thorough repair and restoration of the main fabric of the park  including resurfacing a variety of footpaths, extensive hard and soft landscaping and renovation of the parks historic buildings and structures. A main feature of the project will be the complete restoration of the Venetian footbridge over the boating lake and the parks nine grade 2 listed shelters and other historic structures.

    Restoration of the main infrastructure and fabric of the park will include repair of stone retaining walls, balustrades and steps around the perimeter of the Boating Lake with paving works to the public realm and amenities. The parks lighting will also be upgraded with new wiring to restored columns which will be repaired and refurbished with additional replica units installed.

    There will be a new Children’s Playground installed and the soft landscaping to the gardens restored to their original historic layouts.  Restorations of the parks buildings will also take place around the old ticket office and the Arts and Crafts Centre

    On announcing the contract, Casey Operations Director Mike Cafferky said “We are delighted to have won King’s Gardens. It is a very exciting concept and comes on the back of 14 other HLF funded Park Restoration works in recent years, one of which was the BALI Grand Award Winner at the National Landscape Awards 2012.  We look forward to working with Sefton Council to produce yet another quality multi-faceted restoration scheme”.

    Further details of projects carried out by the Casey Companies can be found at

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    Valuable gardening tips

    { story.summary|safe|escape }

    • Judy Sharpe

    WHILE gardening is somewhat governed by commonsense, nurseries are bombarded with a multitude of questions – here is some basic information.


    Generally, inside is just once a week – ferns need more water than fleshy stemmed varieties that hold moisture.

    Plants grown in containers on patios and balconies will require water more than once a week.

    Plants in the ground can be assisted by water retention aids and mulches, but heat and wind will demand more frequent watering.

    Watch those areas that miss out on rain.


    Inside a slow release such as Osmocote is ideal.

    Shrubs and trees are a little more complicated – if unsure, ask at your local nursery, or use a fertiliser with a neutral pH such as Bounceback or Organic X-tra.

    Acid-loving plants prefer cow manure while poultry manure will stimulate alkalinity.

    For flowers and vegetables use cow manure in the summer and poultry in the winter.

    Pest and diseases

    If you can see the pest use a contact spray such as Malathon or pyrethrum.

    Otherwise, you can take samples to a nursery for the best advice on what to do.

    Plants and planting

    Buy hardy plants for the sun and for shade try ferns, palms, azaleas, camellias, hydrangea and fuchsias.

    Spring is the obvious time to plant but it means diligence with watering, whereas autumn planting is ideal as the milder weather allows the plant time to adjust to its new home.

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    Tips for getting started with a tunnel

    ? A typical tunnel for home gardeners is 3x6m /10x20ft in size with a height of about 2m / 6ft. For suppliers, check out Colm Warren Polytunnels or


    ? Get as big and tall a polytunnel as you can possibly afford or have space

    for. You will always want more space for growing and the head space will

    be appreciated when digging.

    ? It should be positioned on well-drained soil and on level ground, in a sunny spot, orientated east-west.

    ? Chose a warm, dry day for erecting the tunnel. This will make the polythene supple and easier to pull tight. Get lots of help – it’s perfect meitheal work. Thorough anchoring of the plastic in the soil is vital.

    ? In the summer, there can be extreme heat in the tunnel. You should build in as much ventilation as possible.

    ? If well fitted and maintained (washed each year with a soft brush and warm, soapy water), the polythene can last 10 to15 years.

    ? Watering is essential. Having a tap in the tunnel, or close enough for a hose connection, will save a lot of effort.

    ? A bench, shelf or table provides a great location for propagating seeds.

    ? I can recommend Joyce Russell’s excellent book, ‘The Polytunnel Book’ (Frances Lincoln).

    Originally published in

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    Impatient? Tips for a quicker vegetable harvest – Bryan

    Vegetable gardening is an exercise in patience. Sweet potatoes can take more than 100 days to ripen; some tomato and watermelon varieties require five months.

    But there are ways to shorten the wait.

    The easiest is choosing plants that taste best when harvested young.

    “The one thing you will miss out on with speedy growing is bulk, but what you will get in return is layers of flavor; a sprinkle of hot and peppery micro-green radish here, a sweet and nutty, barely cooked new potato there, a garnish of cucumber-y borage flowers to finish a dish,” writes Mark Diacono in the new “The Speedy Vegetable Garden” (Timber Press). “These are the crops that will mark out your cooking as distinctly and unquestionably homegrown.”

    Timing is everything.

    “Be slow to harvest and you’ll miss their best moments,” says Diacono, who does his gardening on a 17-acre plot in Devon, England. “These are fresh, lively and zingy flavors, flavors that can either fade or become bitter and overly strong as the plant grows on toward maturity.”

    Many plants — notably fruits — are genetically wired for late development.

    “Tomatoes, strawberries and apples all want to be left on the plant until they are fully ripe to get the fullest, lushest flavors out of them,” Diacono says. “Vegetables are a little different. Many get woodier, less succulent and lower in sweetness as they grow more mature, so really are at their loveliest picked young.”

    That would include new potatoes, radishes, baby carrots, zucchini, miniature cucumbers, spring peas, turnips and beets.

    Cut-and-come-again salad leaves can be clipped in as little as 21 days. Sprouted seeds (mung beans, mustard, lentils) can become table fare in just three days.

    Check the maturity dates on seed packets as you shop. Heirloom tomatoes take 100 days or more to develop while cherry tomatoes need only about 65 days.

    The same goes for squash. Winter squash (acorn, butternut) generally require 110 days before they are kitchen-ready. Summer squash (crookneck, zucchini), by comparison, can be eaten in 55 days or less.

    There are many ways to jumpstart the growing season so you can be harvesting a meal while other gardeners are just beginning to turn the ground. Among them:

    — Choose the warmest site possible if you’re planting early. “Even a small change in temperature can make a difference during spring and fall frosts,” says Jo Ann Robbins, an extension educator with the University of Idaho.

    — Use enclosures. Covering plants moderates temperature, wind and humidity. “Air and soil temperatures are warmer, and the cover will conserve heat radiation from the soil during the night,” Robbins says in a fact sheet.

    — Start vegetable plants inside from seed, and transplant them eventually into the garden. “Research shows the older the transplants, the better they will resist cold weather,” Robbins says.

    — Warm the soil early. “Throw a piece of black or clear polyethylene over the soil in early spring, pin it down with tent pegs or bricks, and wait,” Diacono says. “The sun will warm it and excessive water will be kept off, leaving it in a fantastically workable state a few weeks later and conducive to quick plant growth.”



    For more about plant maturity dates, see this North Dakota State University fact sheet:

    You can contact Dean Fosdick at

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    Adding the personal touch

    Garden books and magazines are full of ideas for garden designs. They mention color and height of plants for borders and beds. They illustrate garden rooms where sections of the garden are distinct areas, at the same time being an integral part of the garden. Focal points are also covered.

     All of these are important garden features. Garden design is a personal thing, however, and the gardener has the last say about what to plant and where things are placed. Sometimes, though, a little nudging may help with ideas that the gardener hadn’t considered.

    A list of plants with their attributes is the first step in laying out a garden, but perhaps not everybody realizes that what can set a better standard in a garden is the use of other materials such as hardscapes.

    It is the hardscape which lends itself to creating focal points, entryways to garden rooms and as complimentary accessories that can enhance a setting.

    Hardscapes come in many forms.

    A simple walkway of patio tiles, or flat stones spaced for striding or laid end-to-end — straight for formal or curved for informal design — will lead into a space where one may discover the reason to be led there. That reason may be a particular plant, but it can also be a hardscape object. The object could be a sculpture, piece of driftwood, fountain, pottery or a clay pot filled with color, making it the focal point.

    One simple idea for a focal point is to lay down a patio tile, stand two or three common cement blocks on top of that, then place another matching patio tile on the cement blocks as a base for a small sculpture or an interesting stone or a curiously shaped piece of driftwood, even a potted plant.

    Wooden posts with a lintel or a small roof can act as gate entryways to parts of the garden and can also double as supports for a climbing rose or a vine.

    Benches are excellent hardscape objects. One or more simple wooden seats can be positioned in places where one may sit to view a garden feature, such as a potted plant placed on a bench end for accent. Painted metal furniture would designate more formality.

    Lanterns wired with low voltage hidden wires can be focal points or guiding lights in the night garden. They can consist of plastic, stone or metal and may be of a color to draw the eye, or of a design to match a theme.

    Other than a gateway, a larger piece of hardscape would be a building such as a gazebo, pavilion, shed or greenhouse. These become the ultimate form of hardscapes and can be a simple or complex design.

    A building has a specific use as a tool shed, a sitting area for contemplation, a plant-starting place or an area for small gatherings where guests enjoy refreshments. It may also support a vine of shrub.

    Most people are familiar with Zen gardens, where the main elements are rocks and raked sand, which designate the sea, mountains and distant views. Such a garden is entirely of hardscape.

    Whether a garden is modest or of larger proportions, there is always a place for hardscape.

    To do: Finalize bareroot planting and complete winter pruning. Rake up fallen leaves from pruned roses which may harbor disease spores and water in a handful of Epsom salts around pruned roses to give them a magnesium boost.

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