Cypress resident works to keep bayous clean
By ANN PARKS
Eric Ruckstuhl is probably the Houston-area bayous' best friend and advocate. Ruckstuhl learned to love and appreciate the wild, untamed beauty of some of Houston's bayous as a child, a love that would one day turn into a career.
Ruckstuhl's early childhood was spent exploring the wild beauty of Buffalo Bayou.
In later childhood when he and his mother moved to Austin, Ruckstuhl found other bayous and was astonished to be able to swim in the wild creeks.
Limited to Buffalo Bayou and Memorial Park in Houston, Ruckstuhl found a veritable paradise in Austin.
Ruckstuhl and his mother returned to Houston around 1984, only to find Buffalo Bayou littered with plastic and Styrofoam and grown over with non-habitat vegetation.
He continued to enjoy it as much as possible through his latter years of high school. But it wasn't until he was about 25 years old that Ruckstuhl's passion began to emerge and take shape.
He called the city about the litter problem and the city hooked him up with the Buffalo Bayou Coalition and the Bayou Preservation Association.
Shortly thereafter, he became a volunteer with the BPA. He volunteered so much that in time they offered him a position called Eyes on the Bayou."
The first presentation he made for the BPA included a document he had written named The Clean-Up of Upper Buffalo Bayoua Key to a Cleaner Bayou Downstream."
I went to the BPA meeting," said Ruckstuhl and showed them that paper. Mrs. Terry Hershey, who stopped Buffalo Bayou from being concreted over in the 60s, with the help of George Mitchell from the Woodlands and Congressman George Bush said, You belong with us.'"
Ruckstuhl joined the BPA and has been with them ever since.
What he does to help
Ruckstuhl's duties with the BPA can be categorized into two major parts: clean-up and invasive exotic plant removal. Ruckstuhl is hands-on.
Typically, I do a lot of paint marking," he said. I'll go out into a wooded area and paint mark all the plants that need to come out. Then we cut them down and herbicide the stumps.
Ruckstuhl has help with his work.
Thanks to Steve Hupp with Harris County Environmental Public Health, the Texas inmate program, which he is responsible for starting, supplies crews funded by SEP money (money collected from dumping and littering fines); some volunteer groups also help out.
The state inmate crew has been helping Ruckstuhl with litter removal along the entire White Oak Bayou watershed. From Pinemont Street down to 11th is a big hike and bike called the T.C. Jester Park Hike and Bike. It goes past Watonga Park and Timber Grove and some other points of interest.
With the help of inmates and several groups of volunteers Ruckstuhl has done all the major work in the park from Pinemont to 11th street.
We started in Cypress at the head waters of White Oak and moved all the way to 43rd street. We don't have much wild area left but whatever city and county public wild areas we do have we have to try to restore. We are starting to hit a few other places like Cypress Creek, Collins Park, Penbrook Park and Sims Bayou, too."
I got started with Buffalo, and I'm now involved with 22 watersheds. My immediate goal is to get as much of Houston as we can, but I guess my ultimate goal would be for the rest of the state and country to see what we're doing here and adopt as much of it as possible."