New Houston Program Enlists Neighborhood Groups To Help Clean Up Overgrown Lots

A city worker clears an abandoned lot at Holman and Sauer in Houston's Third Ward.
The City of Houston has launched a new program designed to help neighborhoods plagued by overgrown and abandoned lots. Under that program, the city is lending a hand to neighborhood groups that want to do cleanup projects on their own.

With a drumroll from the Blackshear Elementary School band, a city worker cranks up a tractor and tackles a big corner lot overgrown with six-foot weeds.  The lot at Holman and Sauer in the Third Ward has been a big worry for nearby residents like Tomoro Bell. 

"It is very, very, very concerning for a parent that your chid has to walk past this every day."

Bell is chairman of Houston's Super Neighborhood Alliance. She says overgrown lots cause problems all over the city. People dump trash, and mosquitos breed in tires filled with rainwater. Criminals hide in the thick underbrush. There's also a lot of drug dealing. 

"The people will be over there and they'll be waiting, and you may be on one side of the street and can't see them, then when you turn the corner they're right there. But with this lot being mown down you'll be able to see on both sides of the street, if someone is hiding or whatever, you'll be able to see them." 

Bell was on hand as the city cleaned its first abandoned lot under Houston's new Mow-Down program. Under that program, city crews will bring in heavy equipment to clear the lots. 

Neighborhood groups will then take over maintenance, and the city will pay those groups $75 for every lot they cut. 

"They won't have to wait on the city to say, we've already mowed it once a year, we're not coming back. They don't have to worry about that. They can be the guiders of their own destiny for their neighborhood."

Mayor Annise Parker
Mayor Annise Parker kicks off Houston's new Mow-Down program designed to combat the problem of abandoned and overgrown lots.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker says 100 lots around Houston will be included in the program to start,  and she expects the city will save thousands of dollars in maintenance costs by engaging civic groups instead of hiring contractors. 

The organization Keep Houston Beautiful is also helping in the effort by loaning out lawnmowers and trimmers. Robin Blut is Executive Director. 

"We know that clean and beautiful public areas affect our sense of self, our connection to others, and our belonging to a community. Positive change is flourishing today in the Third Ward community."

The lot at Holman and Sauer isn't the only trouble spot in the Third Ward. An abandoned house sits across the street. Down the block there's a trash dump. 

But City Councilwoman Wanda Adams says programs like Mow-Down will help neighbors to come together to change things. 

"When you live in this area, people on the outside look in. They're not going to come here and say, let's go take care of Third Ward. We're going to have to take care of Third Ward for those of use who live right here in this community."

Organizations that want to take part in the Mow-Down program can apply online

Bio photo of Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

Gail Delaughter joined KUHF in October 2008 as Saturday morning news anchor and host. A native of New Orleans and a graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University, Gail has extensive experience in Texas and Louisiana as a radio news reporter and morning show anchor and co-host...