IAH gets a little more Texan
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It is a 43-acre plot of land that has seen the conversation turn from birdies and eagles to cows and horses. Three decades ago, drivers traveling down Will Clayton Parkway near Lee Road were looking at a private golf course out their side window, but in the years that followed the flag sticks and golf carts slowly began to disappear and the land sat idle within the property boundaries of George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH). Under the long-term growth plan at IAH, the land is slated to be developed for hosting air cargo facilities, but until recently, the short term solution was not nearly as clear. “If you have a piece of land that size, it costs about $10,000 each year to maintain it,” says James Valenta, properties representative with the Houston Airport System. “So, the idea here was to test an idea that would simply offset those costs.” The solution proved to be both surprising and innovative, and it officially made its way before members of the Houston City Council late last year. The Houston Airport System had 43 acres of land complete with a pond that would provide a water supply. A nearby rancher had a small herd of pedigree cattle in need of a place for grazing. The ordinance placed on the council agenda would marry those two interests. “It works for the rancher because he gets a spot where his cattle can graze,” Valenta says. “It works for us because it does away with maintenance costs. The cows are keeping the grass short and they literally work for food.” Seven Brangus cows and one horse have all been brought over to the site since the plan was put into place, each of them expecting a bundle of joy at the time of their move. Since that time, a calf and a colt have been born into the “HAS family” and plans for expanding the program are already being explored. “There is an area north of the existing site that’s being explored for possible grazing use in the future,” Valenta says. “The concept has already proven itself. It’s just a matter of finding ample space with a built-in water supply.” Of course the unique aspect of the arrangement is the fact that just a few hundred feet away from the grazing livestock are thousands of aircraft operations occupying the nation’s fourth busiest airport. But somehow, it all seems to seamlessly blend together. Or to put it in the golfing language that inspired the idea in the first place, it just seems to work as if it’s par for the course.