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Posts published in “Day: July 13, 2004

Environmental learning center in northeast Houston to serve urban youth

Construction began on phase one of a multi-million dollar project to build new student facilities and transform former fish hatchery ponds into a model environmental education center at Sheldon Lake State Park in northeast Houston.

The Sheldon Lake Environmental Learning Center is envisioned as a giant, outdoor classroom where schoolchildren can learn about nature and the environment through hands-on experience. The main audience is inner city young people, few of whom have access to fishing, birding and other typical state park activities.

“The world of nature and the outdoors, the domain of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and its allies, has historically been a rural enterprise,” said Al Henry of Houston, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioner who has become the project’s leading advocate. “But today we have millions of children growing up in an urban world of concrete and steel. With the Sheldon project, we can bring the outdoors into the city and give these children important new chances for learning and growth.”

About 7,500 students already travel each year to Sheldon Lake, a reservoir created in 1942 to provide water for war industries along the ship channel. The site later became a state fish hatchery and then a state park, which today offers youth fishing and other learning activities at 28 former hatchery ponds.

But the proposed project would more than double the volume of students moving through and also would greatly expand the quality and variety of visitor experiences.

The first phase, funded with about $5.8 million from various sources, including Proposition 8 funding, is under construction and set to open this fall. This includes a new 4,600-square-foot Pond Center building with an outdoor pavilion to orient arriving students and for use on rainy days. Also under construction is a new 15,000-square-foot Pond Plaza of outdoor landscaped areas, including a new observation deck that can accommodate an entire classroom-all this is an interpretive gathering and embarkation area for the pond network.

At the heart of the first phase are four new Pond Learning Stations that serve as outdoor aquatic classrooms. The first, Aquatic Lab 1, is a covered deck in the middle of a pond. Aquatic Lab 2 is an open deck in a different pond on the complex’s south side. These “labs” allow students to get into the water to collect pond samples for study under a microscope. The next learning station is the Pond Crossing, a boardwalk that spans an entire pond with a covered deck outdoor classroom in the middle. The fourth station is a new Pond Pavilion shaded trailhead and observation deck in an adjacent wooded area at the far west end of the rows of ponds. Connecting all this is a rebuilt trail system that winds through the ponds, including an accessible bridge for students with disabilities.

Although youth education is the main focus, two other project goals are native habitat restoration and sustainable design. Also this year, scientists and volunteers have been planting native plants to restore wetlands and prairies. Agreements have been struck to secure essential water to sustain the main reservoir. Buildings incorporate “green” design features like solar energy and rainwater collection, not only to save energy and prevent pollution, but also to showcase these concepts for students.

However, the improvements only scratch the surface of what is planned at Sheldon. A local group of community leaders is seeking approximately $9.6 million in private donations to complete the second phase, which would include a new $3.3 million education and visitor center. Plans also call for “tree top” cabins and a camping area for overnight group stays, a dining hall and kitchen, plus more trails, boardwalks and habitat restoration.

The Parks and Wildlife Foundation of Texas, TPWD’s official nonprofit partner, is helping to raise private donations for the project. To make a donation or learn about donor opportunities, see the project capital campaign Web page (

For more information about Sheldon Lake State Park, including hours, fees and opportunities for school groups and families, see the park Web page or call (281) 456-2800.

Complete information about the Sheldon Lake Environmental Learning Center, including project photos and plans, is also online

All-Star game catches Houston fans’ attention

HOUSTON – From Greenspoint to Aldine to Downtown Houston, all eyes were on Minute Maid Park and the surrounding area from last weekend through this Tuesday night, as the Major League brought their All Star game to Houston.

Thousands of fans assembled starting last weekend at the Fan Fest, being held at the Brown Convention Center, with memorabilia, interactive games, all star player autograph signings, and historical exhibits as some of the highlights of this event.

Other events that have entertained fans who cannot get into the sold out game are the Main Event, an urban block party each night on Main Street, Home Run Derby on Monday night at the Ballpark, and a nightly parade of the Budweiser Clydesdale horses.

Many of the thousands of participants are getting their first exposure to the revitalized downtown Houston and the Metro light rail system, and comments have been very favorable.

The Houston Police Department along with other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies with the assistance of Major League Baseball security have been diligently planning and making security preparations for the July 13 Major League Baseball All-Star game. Although the exact details of the security plan can not be shared, there is some basic information citizens need to be aware of that will make getting around downtown and the area surrounding Minute Maid Park a little easier.

Street Closures
Around Minute Maid Park: North at Congress, South at Texas, East at Hamilton and West at Crawford. These street closures that have been approved by the City of Houston for the All-Star events. You can view the information and maps via the link at the top of the home page at www.

Main Event – Downtown: Streets will be closed on Main Street from Congress to the North and Texas to the South. The Downtown Entertainment District Alliance’s (DEDA) website page has a list of all-star baseball-related activities and a list of the events being held this weekend at www.houston

Security Concerns
Counterfeit Merchandise: HPD officials had a news conference Wednesday morning at Minute Maid Park to warn vendors of counterfeit gear not to show up for the game at the ballpark or at other events beginning Friday. They’ll be on the lookout for phony jerseys, caps and game-day tickets. Uniformed and plainclothes HPD officers and MLB workers will mingle with crowds, looking for sellers. Knockoffs will be seized and the sellers arrested and face fines of up to $2 million and 99 years in prison.

At the Ball Park: A no-fly zone will be in effect during the game as required by Federal Aviation Administration regulations. Park attendants will be using hand-held scanners to check barcodes on tickets. All-Star Game tickets will also be fed through a machine that can read embedded coding. Expect security measures similar to those on Astros game days. Binoculars and cameras will be allowed in the park, but coolers will not. Backpacks and purses will be searched and metal-detector wands will be used. Main Event: Plain clothed as well as uniformed officers will monitor the crowds that gather for the festivities and parties planned on Main Street. They will be watching for any unruly and or suspicious behavior that would jeopardize public safety. Uniformed officers working approved extra-jobs at many of the downtown bars will also watch for law violators.

NHG Chamber Epicurean Extravaganza at Sam Houston Race Park

The North Houston Greenspoint Chamber of Commerce has teamed up with Sam Houston Race Park to bring you Epicurean Extravaganza 2004. The event will be held on Thursday, August 26, 2004 from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. at The Pavilion Centre.

Attendees will be able to sample new and traditional, delectable house specialties and thirst-quenching beverages from the area’s favorite restaurants, caterers and beverage companies. During the night there will be live racing, door prizes and other entertainment.

Tickets are $15 in advance for adults and $20 at the door. Tickets will be available Monday, July 26th.

Please contact the Chamber at 281-872-8700 or visit our website at

Man dies in immigrant smuggling argument at Airline, I-45

Houston police are investigating the death of a man at 4700 IH 45 North on Wednesday, July 6, 2004, at about 10 p.m.

HPD Homicide Investigators M. Sosa, Jr. and L. Benavidez reported: The suspect, Rafael Flores Garcia (H/M DOB: 02-14-67), was taken into custody and will face charges for the death of the victim, Jose Lopez, 24. Further investigation revealed Garcia had smuggled three immigrants.

The exchange of the immigrants was to take place in the parking lot of a grocery store at 4711 Airline. Lopez, the brother of one of the immigrants, met Garcia in the south corner of the parking lot.

Garcia raised the price for the release of Lopez’s brother from $1500 to $1800. An argument ensued between Lopez and Garcia regarding the amount of money that was to be paid. Garcia then fled the parking lot driving west bound over the curb across the service road and exit ramp, and onto Hwy 45 North with Lopez hanging on the driver’s door.

Garcia’s vehicle was struck by a northbound van on the freeway service road, causing Lopez to be thrown away from the truck and land on the pavement.

Lopez was transported to Memorial Northwest Hospital where he was pronounced dead as a result of the injuries that he suffered.

The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement will file charges in this incident.

State review puts NE Senior Housing projects in jeopardy

Proponents of new subsidized senior housing in the Northeast area were disappointed to learn this week that two projects scheduled for construction on Mesa Road had earned low scores in a review by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

This review affects whether the projects can get tax credits, which allow them to charge less for rentals and receive lower cost financing.
The projects are Mesa Senior Apartments, by SGI Ventures, and Commons of Grace Estates, by Grace Cathedral Church.

Both developers have indicated they would like to proceed with their projects, and will appeal the reviews. They are confident that they will find a way to build the projects.

Apollo 11 — 35 Years later… by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson

On July 16, 1969, three men began a voyage that would forever change our world, and mark their place in the history books. They were aboard the Apollo 11 spacecraft that launched from Cape Kennedy with a simple mission objective: “Perform a manned lunar landing and return safely.”

On July 20, just four days after jettisoning into orbit, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to step foot on another planet. Their lunar module, Eagle, touched down in the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon, while the third crew member, Michael Collins, the pilot and navigator for the mission, orbited above in the command module Columbia.

The first words uttered on the moon, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” have become synonymous with space exploration and the innately American drive to continue that spirit of discovery. The two astronauts traversed the moon’s surface collecting the first ever lunar samples, taking photographs and conducting experiments. Four days later they reentered the earth’s atmosphere, splashing into the Pacific Ocean where they were greeted by the aircraft carrier, Hornet, a beaming President Nixon, and a nation overflowing with goodwill, pride, and patriotism.

I was a young television reporter in Houston, when I covered the heroic Apollo 11 astronauts and their families during the 1969 moon landing. Since that time I’ve been an enthusiastic backer of manned space exploration and in my 11 years in the Senate I’ve worked hard to ensure America keeps pushing the envelope; maintaining our space program as a top priority, and assuring our technological edge in the world continues.

Our world has changed significantly since Neil Armstrong took the giant leap for mankind 35 years ago and many of the changes have been fueled by discoveries made in space. Microchips, satellite communication, cordless appliances, CAT scans and guided missiles were all advanced by the knowledge we gained in space. Even that initial lunar landing produced discoveries such as the knowledge that the Moon is lifeless, containing no living organisms, fossils, or native organic compounds, enabling us to learn more about the world that surrounds us.

After the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster last year, we’ve been forced to reevaluate our space program and infuse NASA with a renewed mission and objective for the future of space exploration. This year President Bush unveiled a new vision for NASA, committing the U.S. to a long-term human and robotic program to explore the solar system, beginning with a return to the Moon that will enable future explorations of Mars and other destinations. His proposals offer tremendous potential to further research in energy, geology, and other fields. This spring the robotic rover, Opportunity, discovered that there was once water on Mars and therefore possibly life.

And all the while, NASA has continued its missions into space. Just last month the Cassini spacecraft successfully entered orbit around Saturn. The mission, taking place 934 million miles away from earth, and with the cooperation of our partners at the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency, began seven years ago when the craft first left Cape Canaveral in 1997. For the next four years the Cassini will orbit Saturn, executing 52 close encounters with seven of the planet’s 31 known moons. This mission is just one slice of the amazing work being conducted by the scientists, researchers and astronauts who strive to keep discovery in the forefront of our consciousness.

This month as we celebrate the 35th anniversary of man’s first footsteps on the moon, we commemorate Apollo 11, the pioneers who manned it and the great spirit of discovery that still dwells in us today. It also reminds us that staying in the forefront of space exploration will help us grow the economy and maintain defense prowess. With an ambitious plan in place, the 21st century could bring untold discoveries.

Jimmy Lane — Surviving the Hungry Years…

Jimmy Lane, former Crosby resident, West Virginia native, former boxer and now a retired Texan living in Athens, Tex., wrote a book a couple of years ago. “Surviving the Hungry Years,” was published in Huntington, W. Va. I picked up a copy of this paperback at the Crosby/Huffman Chamber of Commerce office earlier this year.

Semi-retired Huntington sports columnist, Ernie Salvatore, wrote the foreword to Jimmy’s book. “Jimmy Lane didn’t look like a ‘hungry’ fighter. His blond, blue-eyed good looks and his flat stomach suggested a different line of work. Movie star, maybe? Far from it. As one of eight Lane children of an often unemployed candy maker, Jimmy Lane was always hungry, whether it was for success in the ring, or for searching for a square meal at a real dinner table with tablecloths and cutlery. He was, in a word, ravenous….”

Salvatore goes on to say “Jimmy Lane’s story is a good one and it’ll take you many places…Above all, he writes the way he fought…openly and honestly, and he scores another knockout. What more can anyone ask?”

It would be easy to go on about the things this sports writer says about Lane but that would only be half the story about the man who lived on the Crosby-Dayton Road for about five years while working for the Crosby ISD. He had already retired once from Tyler Junior College and hung it up again about two years ago when he moved to Athens. His daughter and son-in-law, Phyllis and Jerry Blizzard, continue to reside on that same Crosby-Dayton Road.

Lane was a fighter of note during his younger years. He fought as an amateur in West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Illinois for a number of years. He was once the bantamweight Golden Gloves National Champion. Later he turned professional while fighting in New Orleans. For several years he fought in the New Orleans and Houston areas winning far more than he lost. During his career he had 150 bouts from the bantam to welterweight classifications. He won 93 of 100 amateur fights and 43 of 50 professional bouts.

Some of those were in the Houston area where he fought in the old Sam Houston Coliseum. In the “Big Apple” he fought, with distinction, many of the top boxers of his day. He was one of the fighters in the last feature fight held in the old St. Nick’s Arena which has long since been torn down. He believes he fell victim to less than honest judging several times in New York—“three as an amateur and once as a professional.” This fight was one of those one judge voted the bout even and the other two voted for Lane yet the decision went against him.

As a youngster in Huntington, Lane and his siblings were frequently hungry and he tells of this in his book. That didn’t change significantly until he entered the Army. He spent 18-months in Europe and spent much of his time boxing. He toured much of the continent boxing with other soldiers and made an excellent account of himself. He won the Com Z championship that at the time was all of France. Later he won an European Championship.

In my discussions with Jimmy I learned he married a Houston girl 37 years ago who saw him for the first time on television in a bout at the Sam Houston Coliseum. Most of the time he was boxing he also held a full-time job. He worked several years in Houston with Armour Meat Packing in addition to employment at Tyler Junior College and the local ISD position. Now it is only retirement for Lane. His book continues to be available at the Crosby Chamber office at $9.95.

Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my West Virginia home!

July 13, 2004

The Houston Police Department is seeking information leading to the identity, arrest and charges of the suspect depicted on this composite sketch. This suspect is wanted for Aggravated Robbery.

On Thursday June 3,2004 at approximately 2:30A.M., the two victim’s were working at the C & M Moving and Storage Company located at the 2800 block of Canal when they were approached by this suspect. The suspect pointed a large pistol at the first victim and demanded his wallet. This victim complied and the suspect took the money and gave the wallet back. At that point a second suspect approached and suspect #1 demanded the second victim’s wallet. This victim also complied and as the suspect’ were walking away, the second suspect observed the victims white 2003 Honda CRX in the parking lot. The suspect demanded the keys and the victim stated they were inside the vehicle. Suspect#2 then jumped in the vehicle and suspects fled the scene being followed by a brown 4-door Honda Accord occupied by four unidentified Hispanic males. The stolen vehicle was later recovered at the 5600 block of Royalton.

Suspect #1 is described as: Hispanic male, 20-21 years of age, 5’9”-5’11”, 150-160lbs., wearing a black knit cap, black t-shirt and black blue jean shorts, using a large caliber pistol.

Suspect #2 is described as a: Hispanic male, early twenties, medium build.

The four other suspects were described only as young Hispanic males driving an older 4-door brown Honda Accord.

If you have any information in regard to this case, please contact the Crime Stoppers Hotline at 713-222-TIPS. Please refer to case #85528104. Crime Stoppers pays cash rewards of up to $5000.00 for information leading to any felony arrest.