The Bayou Preservation Association maintains files on its activities from its beginnings in the 1960s. Materials on the history of Buffalo Bayou date back to the 1920s, so the collection is dated from that period. Most of the materials collected for the archives were housed in the BPA offices, but those papers included contributions from Terry Hershey, Frank Smith, George Mitchell, and Fred Lazure, as well as others. Overall, the papers represent a broad overview of BPA’s activities, but there is a strong emphasis on preservation campaigns and community education efforts.
Adhering as closely as possible to the archival principal of original order, the archivist reorganized materials when necessary to achieve series consistency, maintain historicity, and enhance researcher usability, usually employing alphabetical order followed by chronological order. In the archival records collection, papers were catalogued at topic level. References, on the other hand, were catalogued at item (title) level. Every attempt was made to date items in the collection, but items that could not be dated were labeled “n.d.”
A significant portion of the BPA collection is newspaper clippings. Because news print presents special archival challenges and because there is a tendency to dismiss the value of clippings that look messy, non-archivists often consider the special care and space given to news print unnecessary. On the contrary, news clippings provide an invaluable source of information often unavailable from other sources. For example, the now-defunct Houston Post is not available on the internet, and the physical newspaper archives are located at the Houston Chronicle, inaccessible to the general public. Researching historical newspapers requires page-by-page examination of microfiche at the public library. BPA’s news clippings now provide an illuminating background source for research on any publicized watershed issue.
Photographs and slides constitute only a small portion of the BPA collection, but they were carefully sleeved according to standard preservation practices. Because photo labeling prior to archival processing was often inadequate for useful organization, unlabeled photographs were organized into general categories based on the images.
Maps constitute a significant feature of BPA’s record collection. Most bear titles, but not all of them are dated. Maps were organized according to size, rather than title or chronology, so that larger maps would not obscure smaller maps in the carts. Four rolling carts contain the rolled maps. A plan of the slots in the carts is included in the Maps series, with each slot given a distinctive number to facilitate retrieval. To prevent damage, maps are not numbered, so a patron should remove only one map at a time and note its appropriate slot number.
References are another significant portion of the collection, and this collection of references distinguishes the BPA collection from other similar sets of organization records. Books, engineering reports, monographs, seminar materials exemplify the kinds of materials catalogued as references. Often document size was the determining characteristic that led to classification of a document as a reference. References are stored separately from archival documents in acid-free record cartons housed in the file drawers. Following standard archival preservation practice, metal, glued, or stapled bindings were removed. Large documents are stored in archival envelopes with cloth ties.
BPA’s record collection includes 507 folders of organization records, monographs, and news clippings organized in 71 manuscript boxes that are housed in 2 large cabinets. There are also 46 videos (including duplicate tapes) and 9 audio tapes collected in 4 video boxes. There are 88 historical maps and 110 flood insurance maps. Reference items (books and reports) are cataloged by item and stored in 18 record cartons in labeled file drawers. Oversized engineering reports (black books) are stacked in reference drawers 19 and 20. References total 281 items.
BPA’s archival records collection represents the efforts of several people. First of all, Terry Hershey initiated and funded the BPA archives project. Archives apprentice, Silvia Rambaran, representing the Historical Conservation Guild, carried the work load for the archival processing. She organized papers, conducted document inventories, managed the necessary box and file re-ordering, labeled folders, and reformatted the finding aid throughout the course of the project. Before Silvia joined the project, BPA office manager Pam Boring compiled a preliminary draft of the references. BPA office manager Sue Roman helped Silvia by organizing files on environmental issues and news clippings and by listing a portion of the flood insurance maps. Terry Tomkins-Walsh, principal archivist with the Historical Conservation Guild, supervised the project and finalized the finding aid.
Open for research. / Portions of this collection are restricted.
Special Collections owns the physical items in our collections, but copyright normally belongs to the creator of the materials or their heirs. The researcher has full responsibility for determining copyright status, obtaining permission to publish from copyright holders, and abiding by current copyright laws when publishing or displaying copies of Special Collections material in print or electronic form. For more information, consult the appropriate librarian. Reproduction decisions will be made by Special Collections staff on a case-by-case basis.
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During the mid-1960s a group of homeowners in Houston’s Memorial Park area formed the Buffalo Bayou Preservation Association (BBPA) to protect the natural beauty of their neighborhood bayou. In 1966, Terry Hershey and a number of other individuals observed an area along Buffalo Bayou near Chimney Rock that was ravaged by fallen trees and bulldozed undergrowth. They soon learned that Harris County Flood Control District was re-routing Buffalo Bayou without public notification. Outraged by the condition of the bayou and the absence of democratic process, Terry Hershey, a Memorial resident herself, joined BBPA and quickly became its most visible and energetic activist. Her first acts involved grassroots organizing, but before long she was traveling to Washington, D.C. to testify before the House Appropriations Sub-Committee by invitation of young Congressman George Bush. Her testimony led to a halt of the work on Buffalo Bayou and a request by Congressman Bush that the project be re-studied by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Although BBPA began as a NIMBY (not in my back yard) organization, by 1969 members realized that their concerns for Buffalo Bayou applied to all of Houston and Harris County’s watersheds, so the organization expanded its scope and re-tooled its name to Bayou Preservation Association (BPA). As a NIABY (not in anybody’s back yard) group, BPA emerged as an organization devoted to watershed oversight and information dissemination. Promoting community education and participation in watershed management decisions was a major focus of BPA activities. During the 1970s, BPA orchestrated the formation of the Harris County Flood Control Task Force, a community collaboration of engineers, developers, and interested citizens. Hana Ginzbarg tirelessly managed a successful campaign to preserve Armand Bayou, and BPA sponsored an herculean effort to propel Houston and Harris County into the federal flood insurance program in 1973.
Work continues to preserve and maintain Buffalo Bayou as well as other urban watersheds. Since its beginning in 1966, BPA has functioned as an educational citizens’ group, publishing a monthly newsletter, the Bayou Forum, and sponsoring informative symposia related to urban watershed management. In 1999, for example, BPA sponsored a conference on “Buyout as Flood Mitigation,” to help participants understand the financial, aesthetic, and environmental advantages of open spaces in floodplains. BPA offers ongoing educational opportunities for children through the “Kids on the Bayou” program, and it monitors conditions along Harris County’s watersheds, mounting campaigns, when necessary, for intelligent and environmentally responsible watershed management.
BPA’s environmental records collection is dedicated to the memory of Althiea Morris, a woman whose energy, spirit, and enthusiasm enhanced the quality of life in the BPA office and helped advance BPA toward its mission. Al worked for the Weingarten Corporation until she met Terry Hershey. Impassioned by Terry’s contagious advocacy for conservation, Al joined The Park People as office manager, a job she held for at least ten years. She organized the office, trained executive directors, and set up and maintained the historical scrapbooks. Then she went to work at the BPA, where she took personal interest in the board activities, reminding members of upcoming events, and where she kept the office atmosphere lively with her high spirits and tasty snacks. During this time, Al organized Terry Hershey’s papers and coordinated the transfer of BPA records from Terry’s collection to the BPA office. Al and Terry are the likeliest reasons BPA has a record collection to preserve.
Al enjoyed the outdoors before she began her service in environmental organizations. She and her husband Joe spent weekends camping, bird watching, or sometimes just listening to the trees. Al’s environmental work expanded and intensified her interest in nature conservation, and she became a tireless environmental advocate. Her organizational abilities created order and kept The Park People and BPA running smoothly. Above all, Al was an inspiration. Through her orderliness, Al communicated a sense of mission to staff and volunteers alike. Her ability to nurture everyone created a community of commitment. And Al’s ebullient personality generated a joyous atmosphere where work was a pleasure. BPA’s environmental record collection was processed and named to honor Al Morris, for all the work she did and for the spirit she imparted to those who had the privilege to know her.
Donated by Katharine C. Lord in 2008.
Part of the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections Repository