BEAUMONT, Texas — How many times a day do you flush?
Give it some thought for a second. Now multiply that by 115,000 people and tons more visitors.
That’s a lot of sh–, um, crap. (I’ll call it effluent.) All of it has to be treated and flow somewhere.
For Beaumont — a Southeast Texas port city in drive-through country between Houston and Louisiana whose economy runs on petrochemical facilities and prisons — the sheer volume of treated effluent entering Hillebrandt Bayou meant something had to be done. Building a new treatment plant likely would have been costly and time-consuming. The city turned to nature for help.
The result is Cattail Marsh (jokingly called the “Potty Marsh”), a sprawling verdant, soggy 900-acre habitat for birds, fish, insects, alligators, snakes and other wildlife. It’s hard to imagine, but the natural scenery is hard at work filtering human matter and sustaining life. The cleaned water then enters Hillebrandt Bayou. It has been open to the public for a few years as an addition to Tyrrell Park on the city’s south side.
The city recently completed a boardwalk that extends into the largest marsh pond with covered viewing platforms that offer much needed (and the only) shade. The rest of it is footpaths that ring the marsh. I noticed a few joggers taking advantage of it on a recent trip.
A few gator sightings are possible (I saw three) and it’s a birdwatcher’s paradise. Herons, ducks, egrets all establishing their territories and dipping into the shallow pools for small fish and frogs; gators gliding with their heads just above water; butterflies scudding about and small frogs scurrying out of the walking paths.
Peaceful. And to think we owe it all to a regular daily human habit.
Keep flushing, Beaumont. It looks great!
Extra notes: The marsh is behind the municipal golf course at Tyrrell Park. This is mosquito country and repellent is always advised. However, the city put gambusia fish in these wetlands. They eat mosquito larvae.
On a hot day, shade is only available at the viewing platforms so a hat is a necessity. I saw one woman using a bright umbrella to cool off.
Also, the parking area and walking trail are gravel. A summer afternoon shower can make things muddy, so leave the expensive walking shoes at home.
And please, please don’t litter.