Work on the various phases of Exploration Green, a 178-acre flood mitigation project and outdoor recreation spot in the Clear Lake area, has continued amid COVID-19, including a new parking lot and the planting of more greenery.

The land, which is a former golf course, is being converted into five detention ponds, each of which can hold 100 million gallons of stormwater. Visitors have access to athletic fields, walking and biking trails; the lakes and wetland areas are popular bird-watching destinations due to the various native species growing there, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported.

Phases 1 and 2 of the project were completed in April 2018 and September 2020, respectively. Phase 3A is now complete, and work on Phase 4 is nearing an end for major construction, according to an Oct. 19 update from the conservancy.

Here is what community members need to know about Exploration Green progress, volunteer work and opportunities to get involved.

Remaining phases, parking lot

Exploration Green’s joint venture partner, the Clear Lake City Water Authority, has initiated the contract for Phase 3B, and work will begin soon, per the update.

“This section demonstrates the adage of ‘everything takes longer than desired,’ but CLCWA persevered to achieve a good compromise solution on the design and get the required permits,” staff wrote in the update. “Neighbors that back up to this section should look for notification letters explaining the construction plans very soon.”

Phase 4’s northeastern trail access was poured earlier this month, and grading was more than 90% complete, per the update. The contractor hopes to finish grading, as well as install the remaining trails and access routes, this month.

Project leaders are asking the public to refrain from using these trails until construction and grass seeding is complete. Once this work is complete, the “trail closed” signs at the entrances will be removed, although the public is advised to stay on the trails and allow the grass to grow. Tree, wetland and prairie planting will be needed on Phase 4, and some of that work is planned for later this fall, per the update.

Phase 5 construction will begin soon. At this time, many of the trees, prairie and wetland plants will be relocated from Phase 5 to the new nursery, located off Bay Area Boulevard. The owner of the pipeline that runs beneath Phase 5 has completed the primary efforts to lower the line so construction can be done, per the update; next steps include the permits and bid process.

Adjustments are being made to the landscaping at the new parking lot on Diana Lane, which opened over the summer. Additional trees and shrubbery will be installed around the parking lot this fall.

“The native Muhly Grass is already beginning to show the characteristic purple-pink tops,” staff wrote in the update regarding native plant growth by the lot. “The lot is a big improvement over the old area.”

CLCWA also installed new signage, and Exploration Green leaders plan to post news bulletins in the signage, per the update. The lot has a bicycle rack available for those who want to ride to the lot and walk along the trails.

Volunteer work

Volunteers can work on the tree, wetland or prairie teams, each of which have different workdays. Upon completion, lakes and wetland areas will take up about 8 acres per phase, or just under 40 total acres, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported.

Tree team workdays are the second and last Saturday of each month in the nursery, and workdays are weekly on Wednesdays and Thursdays for wetland team volunteers. Prairie team members have workdays weekly on Tuesday mornings in the nursery; team planting days vary two to four times per month.

A significant portion of the volunteer work involves removal of invasive or aggressive species throughout the phases, per the update. Volunteers also count inventory, prepare the plants to go into the ground, do weeding, install wetlands, trim plants, and plant trees and prairie grass. Exploration Green’s first returning school group plans to do more work in mid-November.

Exploration Green's amenities are funded entirely by grants and donations. In total, the project will cost between $40 million to $50 million to complete.

To learn more about upcoming events, including a Halloween-themed fun run, a bird-centric Squawk Walk and several scheduled tree planting days through the end of the year, visit the Exploration Green website.