Spring Creek Greenway may already be one of the longest contiguous forested greenways in the nation. Harris County and the Bayou Land Conservancy, however, continue to work on land acquisitions and trail projects to connect the land preserves and trail systems along the entire 30-plus-mile stretch of the creek.
Harris County projects
Dennis Johnston, parks director for Harris County Precinct 4, said there are six tracts of land left to acquire along Spring Creek to connect all adjacent land in Harris County from Hwy. 59 to FM 2978, including two tracts near Willow Creek and The Woodlands and another four tracts between Burroughs Park and FM 2978.
Johnston said the county has already begun discussions with a developer regarding the two tracts near Willow Creek and has plans to purchase land west of FM 2978 through Tomball to Hwy. 249. However, that piece of the greenway may be years away from becoming reality.
“These things are always dependent on money,” Johnston said. “If we had the money right now, we’d go ahead and do it. We should have the piece from Hwy. 59 to [FM] 2978 done in the next year.”
In addition to the thousands of acres of land already acquired by the county, Harris County has built 12 miles of asphalt trails and has several other trail projects in the works to improve trail connectivity across the region.
Design has been completed on a trail that would connect Dennis Johnston Park to the Northgate Crossing subdivision, but construction on the Grand Parkway could prevent the project from breaking ground until early next year, Johnston said.
Another segment—from Northgate Crossing to Springwoods Village—could be a year away from breaking ground, he said. Design and engineering on the segment would be funded by the county. The project, which includes a bridge and undercrossings at a railroad and at I-45, could total upward of $2 million.
The county expects to go out for bid in August for a two-mile trail connecting Hwy. 59 to Jesse H. Jones Park, Johnston said. The project could cost the county about $1.7 million and break ground some time in early 2016.
Additional funding for parks and trails along the greenway could soon be available if voters approve a road and parks bond in November. The Harris County Commissioners Court approved an $848 million bond proposal for the Nov. 3 ballot that would provide $60 million for parks projects, including $15 million for projects within Precinct 4, if it passes.
“If we are able to get a bond, a part of that would go to parks,” Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle said. “There are a number of things we will be able to launch that the public will see an immediate benefit from. That could tie together our greenways and trail. We’re also in desperate need of fields.”
Harris County is not alone in acquiring land and building trails and parks along the greenway. Miles of trails along Spring Creek have been built by The Woodlands, and Springwoods Village developer Coventry Development Corporation has agreed to construct trails along the creek within the master-planned development in Spring.
“If we are able to get a bond, a part of that would go to parks. There are a number of things we will be able to launch that the public will see an immediate benefit from. That could tie together our greenways and trail. We’re also in desperate need of fields.”
– Jack Cagle, Harris County Precinct 4 commissioner
At least three miles of trails have already been constructed in Springwoods Village, CDC officials said.
“In our opinion, the Spring Creek Greenway is a great amenity,” said Keith Simon, executive vice president of CDC Houston. “We have the ability to connect it with the Springwoods Village Nature Preserve. When we first learned about it we thought, ‘Wow, that makes Springwoods Village better.’”
Perhaps the most significant partners on the Montgomery County side of the project have been Montgomery County Precinct 3 and the Bayou Land Conservancy, a nonprofit conservation organization that has helped acquire and preserve several tracts of land along the greenway over the last 16 years.
“Even though we’re based in Harris County, a lot of our work is in Montgomery County,” BLC Executive Director Jennifer Lorenz said. “The reason is because there is no parks department for Montgomery County. We help provide manpower, and provide millions of dollars to connect the greenway and pieces of that puzzle.”
The BLC has begun marking the location of a potential 11-mile trail on the Montgomery County side of the creek that could stretch from the George Mitchell Nature Preserve to a portion of the Montgomery County Preserve near I-45 and Rayford Road, Lorenz said.
The project has received a $100,000 grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, while The Woodlands Township has provided $25,000. Montgomery County Precinct 3 is funding another $30,000 for the project, she said.
The marking project began in February and is estimated to take about three years to complete. The timeline of construction of the trail will depend on how quickly the historical and cultural surveys are completed.
Lorenz said the partnering entities on the greenway have purchased about
82 percent of all land adjacent to the greenway. When it is completed, the project will total 33 miles and feature 12,000 acres of forested preserve, she said.
The greenway not only helps mitigate flooding and provides recreational space for the community but it also provides economic benefits to the region as well, local officials said.
“We are permanently forever protecting the land we work on,” Lorenz said. “The large swatches of land we work on will never, ever be developed. When I know I buy here this [area]is always going to be the same—that is a huge economic boost. Having these greenways increases the value of your property because your resale value ticks up higher.”