Construction is underway on a 1-mile paved trail through the 100 Acre Wood Preserve at Hwy. 249 and Jones Road. County officials also approved a $3.4 million contract Dec. 1 for road improvements and hike and bike trails through the nearby Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve.
Rapid commercial and residential development in the area over the past two decades has incited the need for new parks, recreational facilities and wildlife habitats along Cypress Creek and Little Cypress Creek, said Jim Robertson, chairman of the Cypress Creek Greenway Project. The Greenway Project will create a continuous trail system along the creek spanning from Hwy. 290 to the Spring Creek Greenway near I-45.
“Parks and trails are the No. 1 amenity that people in this area want,” Robertson said. “Not only do they improve the quality of life in the area but it also improves the water quality.”
Since the project began in January 2004, 24 new parks have been developed with 14 different land acquisitions and 15 trails, Robertson said.
The greenway will connect a series of existing and future parks and is meant to create natural floodplain buffer zones, preserve wildlife habitats and act as a source of recreation for the residents, Robertson said.
Property values are also higher in neighborhoods next to conservation easements, said Jennifer Lorenz, executive director of the Bayou Land Conservancy. The land cannot legally be developed, even if ownership changes, she said.
“Studies show that people don’t want to live next to a golf course anymore,” she said. “They want to live next to a trail system.”
Park and trail funding
The Greenway is sprawled across an approximately 13.5-square-mile unincorporated area and is connected to two Harris County precincts and 47 utility districts. Funding for the project has been raised through partnerships with the Cypress Creek Flood Control Coalition, Harris County precincts 3 and 4, the Bayou Land Conservancy, municipal utility districts and other foundations, Robertson said.
In November, 63.55 percent of Harris County voters approved Proposition 2, a bond election providing $60 million for parks and trails. Each precinct in the county will receive $15 million.
The money has not been dedicated to specific projects yet, but Robertson said he remains hopeful that some of it will go toward the greenway.
Because of legislation that was passed in 2005, utility districts have the ability to fund parks through general funds, partnerships with the city of Houston or park bonds. Utility districts are also allowed to seek grants from state departments such as the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
“Some [MUDs] have done great jobs building projects and some don’t want to do anything,” Robertson said. “[The MUDs] have to manage tight finances, and I understand that.”
Precinct 4 projects
Precinct 4 has plans for five major parks along Cypress Creek said Mike Howlett, special projects coordinator for the Precinct 4 Parks Department.
“[Precinct 4] Commissioner [Jack] Cagle is committed to increasing quality of life in this area with parks, trails and green spaces,” Howlett said.
The precinct allotted $3.7 million for work on the Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve, an 85-acre park in The Vintage off Chasewood Park Drive and Hwy. 249.
Howlett said the project will include park entrances and roads, parking lots, utility infrastructure, public restrooms and 9,000 linear feet of paved trail that will circle the 40-acre Marshall Lake. On Dec. 1, Precinct 4 officials announced Mar-Con Services, LLC, was awarded a contract for nearly $3.4 million toward road improvements and hike and bike trails within the park. The project is slated to begin in spring of 2016, Howlett said.
In the design phase, Champions Forest Park is a 2-acre tract north of Cypresswood Drive at Cutten Road. When completed, it will include soccer fields, parking, restrooms, a hiking trail, a small retention pond and a playground, Howlett said.
Anderson Trail, which will run from Grant Road to Cypresswood Drive—connecting Cypresswood Drive to Matzke Park—will be a flat terrain trail approximately 8 feet wide, Howlett said. Surveying and geotechnical work is being done in preparation for construction after a beaver tunneled into the banks. The trail is expected to be complete by summer 2017.
“The recreational projects will offer an alternative transportation to decrease road congestion,” he said.
Construction is also underway on 100 Acre Wood Preserve Trail—a roughly 1-mile paved trail that will extend from Jones Road and Cypress Creek through the 100 Acre Wood Preserve to the property line of the D. Bradley McWilliams YMCA, Howlett said.
In addition, construction has started on the Cypresswood Equestrian and Pedestrian Trail, which spans approximately 4,000 square feet from the Spring Creek Trail south of Cypress Creek and ties into the Foxwood subdivision at the west end of Fox Scene Drive.
Parks and trails are huge assets to the community, said Leslie Martone, president of the Cy-Fair Houston Chamber of Commerce.
“Parks and trails always add value to not only residential developments but also business parks and business developments,” she said. “When we are visiting with companies looking to relocate, they are definitely asking about quality of life for their employees.”