Bear Branch Trail Association The Bear Branch Trail Association (BBTA) will soon begin a pilot test along NorthPark Drive to determine the best way to treat vines that are choking the growth of trees in Kingwood. Numerous complaints from residents about vines "taking over" and "killing trees" have prompted an investigation by the BBTA board. Michelle Stallman, BBTA President, met with Diana Foss, an Urban Wildlife Biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to examine the pros and cons of the vines and the Association's options for treating them. Their investigation determined that five different vine species inhabit the area: rattan, greenbrier, Caroline Jessamine, poison ivy and grape vines. All these are native to Texas. In some cases, these vines are growing so densely that their weight is snapping limbs off smaller trees and forming a dense ground cover that keeps saplings from growing. Certain invasive non-native vines should be removed. Ms. Foss also pointed out that vines have benefits. They provide food for many species of wildlife, escape connections between trees for squirrels, and cover and nesting areas for birds. They also help block traffic noise while providing a lush, green look (in season) for humans. Before Kingwood was developed, the dense forest canopy and periodic fires that swept the forest floor kept vines in check. "Also, vine shoots provided a major food source for deer," said Ms. Foss at a presentation to the Joint Kingwood Trail Association meeting on February 21 2008. "Deer grazed on young vines and kept them down”. However, the development of Kingwood upset this delicate balance. Wherever streets and utility easements have broken the dense forest canopy, sunlight reaches the ground and accelerates the growth of vines. At the same time, the deer population has been reduced and we can no longer let fires burn uncontrolled. Ms. Foss recommended against using herbicides for vine control because of the proximity of vine roots to tree roots-Treating the vines could kill the trees. She outlined four alternatives for the BBTA board. 1) Do nothing. Allow the vines to grow naturally. 2) Machete the vines at the bases of trees. 3) Machete the vines in a wider circle around trees. 4) Remove as many vines as possible in an area and replant with native trees. The BBTA board has chosen to test several of Ms. Foss' options on North Park Drive, including the use of approved herbicides, depending upon the severity of the vine problem. The Board hopes to find the most cost-effective way to encourage tree seedlings to grow while maintaining the area's aesthetics, as well as minimizing the disturbance to wildlife and residents. The test will begin in March and take place along the south side of North Park Drive on BBTA property between Meadow Springs and Brookdale Drive. Other Kingwood Trail Associations will follow closely the results of this test. The Bear Branch Trail Association is responsible for the maintenance and preservation of the greenbelt areas within the borders of Kingwood Drive, Woodland Hills Drive, NorthPark Drive and West Lake Houston Parkway in Kingwood. The trails within the villages of Bear Branch, Hunters’ Ridge, Kings Crossing, Kings Forest and Kings Forest Estates are under the jurisdiction of the Association. At stake in this venture is the future of the forest that attracted people to Kingwood. If young trees cannot replace mature trees, our children and the next generation of residents will be deprived.