ASHFORD COMMUNITY A DRAW FOR YOUNG FAMILIES
Former residents return to area to raise children of their own
By KIM JACKSON
April 17, 2008
Originally posted on www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl//5708863.html
There seems to be a reverse "empty nest" syndrome emerging in the Ashford community in west Houston.
Residents like Kelly Miller and Leslie Dockins grew up in the peaceful, tree-lined neighborhood, which fans out in a southeasten direction from Buffalo Bayou at South Dairy Ashford.
Now they are not only returning to live in their "hometown," but are living in the actual homes they lived in throughout childhood.
"Minus a few years, I have lived here since I was 4 years old," said Miller, who bought the one-story home on Tallulah Court in Ashford Forest from her parents eight years ago.
"It was so fun growing up here. I remember my mom being involved with the homeowners association and the swim team, and now I am doing the same thing.
"I love the location of this neighborhood, and I love my neighbors," Miller said. "All but two of us on our street have lived here for more than 30 years."
Dockins, her husband and son moved into her childhood home on Westella in Ashford South in 2001. She said her parents moved their young family to the neighborhood in 1973.
"I have seen a lot of changes in the neighborhood, but I have also seen so many people I grew up with move back in," Dockins said. "I think it is because we have the most incredible neighbors."
Dockins said she thinks the "beautiful old homes" are drawing young families for several reasons — the neighborhood's location, strong community spirit and good schools. Many of the homes need renovation work, but that is a small price to pay for the benefits a homeowner receives by living there, she said.
The Ashford community was built in the mid-1960s and includes three subdivisions: Ashford South, which stretches south of Westella to Waldemar; Ashford Forest, which runs north of Westella to Buffalo Bayou and Harris County Precinct 3's Terry Hershey Hike-and-Bike Trail; and Ashford Forest Lakes, a small community of about 63 homes around a small lake just south of Buffalo Bayou.
South Dairy Ashford is the western boundary, Harris County Precinct 3's Robin Loop Trail is the eastern boundary, and Briar Forest Drive runs through the community of 933 homes.
The neighborhood is zoned to Houston Independent School District's Shadowbriar Elementary, West Briar Middle and Westside High schools.
Several residents say the strong Ashford Community Association, North Briar Security Cooperative and Women's Club have helped the neighborhood maintain a strong sense of security and community, which has protected property values.
Annette Marek, an Ashford Forest resident and president of the Ashford Women's Club, said as a "newcomer" with no family ties to the neighborhood she has built a strong network of friends through the Ashford Women's Club.
Marek said her initial draw to the neighborhood was its location. She worked in downtown Houston and wanted to live in a neighborhood with multiple routes to her office, and Ashford is only minutes from Interstate 10, and even closer to Memorial Drive.
"I don't have children so I was not as connected to the community as others were," said Marek.
"I joined the Women's Club and I have gotten to know so many people I may have never had the opportunity to know. It really gives the community a small-town feel. We also have an outstanding community Web site (www.ashfordca.com) that really keeps everyone informed and draws people together," she said.
Safety a plus
Greg Daniell, co-chairman of Ashford Community's Security Committee, said he and his family chose their home in Ashford Forest because of the safe, close-knit community.
"When the kids are not in school, our driveway is covered from one end to the other with sidewalk chalk art. They especially like to attack the day after I have pressure-washed," said Daniell. "The driveway is fairly new and provides a great canvas. The kids will work at it all day, going in and out of the house for snacks. Seems like no big deal, but we are never afraid that something is going to happen to them.
"Kids up and down the block play together, ride bikes and scooters, kick balls and have fun. When so many people in today's society are afraid to let their kids out of the house unsupervised, I'm glad we are where we live."
Daniell said the natural and neighborhood-owned amenities are also a big plus.
"When I have the time, I like to ride my bike for exercise and relaxation," Daniell said. "I'm able to ride directly from the neighborhood onto miles of trails that make up Terry Hershey Park. During the spring and summer, (my wife) Susanna and I walk the Robin Trail, Robin Loop and through the neighborhood early in the morning before work. It is incredibly peaceful to walk in the trees and alongside the bayou. You very quickly forget you are in the city."
Ashford residents have access to two pools. The North Pool off Briar Patch Drive has a large baby pool and a diving board for older kids. The South Pool is located off Westella Drive and has a children's playground and tennis courts.
The community is also a short distance down Memorial Drive from the redeveloping Town & Country shopping center and close to the Energy Corridor and its growing inventory of office buildings and complexes.
Janet Escobar, an agent with Re/Max Westside, said homes are priced from about $180,000 for a small one-story home to $200,000-$300,000 for larger homes on larger lots. She said some homes in Ashford Forest Lakes sell for $500,000-$600,000.
Escobar said there are many reasons people are drawn to the Ashford community.
"It is a well-established, well-kept neighborhood with a strong homeowners association," said Escobar. "And it is a quiet neighborhood with a lot of large trees. It is a great place to raise a family. You have people who have lived there for years and years, and you also have people who are moving in and updating the older homes. If you stay in the home for a while, it is a great investment."