Plans are advancing on a number of projects along Cypress Creek that could help improve connectivity and bring numerous park and trail developments to the Spring and Klein area.
Harris County, which received $60 million to fund park projects from Proposition 2 in November, continues work on multiple park and trail projects along the Hwy. 249 corridor. Meanwhile, municipal utility districts in the area have begun discussions about implementing projects as part of the Cypress Creek Master Trails Plan, which was developed by five local MUDS in 2015.
Rapid commercial and residential development in the area over the past two decades has created 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 CCGP, which works with the county and local MUDs on these ongoing projects, is a Cypress Creek Flood Control Coalition committee that advocates a continuous trail system along the 40-plus miles of creek spanning from Hwy. 290 to the Spring Creek Greenway near I-45.
“There’s a clear benefit economically to the community,” Robertson said. “It improves quality of life and makes our communities along Cypress Creek more desirable for people to locate in because parks and trails are the No. 1 recreational amenity people are
Harris County Precinct 4 has plans for five major park projects 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.
Two of the projects in Precinct 4 are located within the Spring and Klein area east of Hwy. 249. The precinct has allotted $3.7 million for work on a park within the Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve, which is 85 acres of preserved land near Marshall Lake off Chasewood Park Drive and Hwy. 249.
Precinct 4 officials announced
Dec. 1 that Mar-Con Services LLC was awarded a contract for nearly $3.4 million toward road improvements and hike and bike trails within the park, which is located within The Vintage. The project is slated to begin in spring 2016, Howlett said.
Champions Forest Park is a 2-acre tract north of Cypresswood Drive at Cutten Road that is still in the design phase. When completed, it will include soccer fields, parking, restrooms, a hiking trail, a small retention pond and a playground, Howlett said.
Precinct 4 Parks Administrator Dennis Johnston said the trails and parks to be developed will provide connectivity to destinations, such as The Vintage, the D. Bradley McWilliams YMCA and Lone Star College-University Park, without the need for a car.
“Not only will you soon be able to travel from Matzke Park to the 100-Acre Woods to the soon-to-be-developed Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve on foot or on bike, but our Precinct 4 parks staff and constable patrols will also be able to use the trail networks to more efficiently provide maintenance and security seamlessly across this entire area,” Johnston 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.
Although funds have not yet been committed to specific projects, Commissioner Cagle and his staff are in the process of evaluating the amount of park bonds to be released over the next seven to 10 years to see the effects on various projects to the overall plans, Johnston said.
“How they choose to spend it, I don’t know,” Robertson said. “But the hope is that will provide some available funding.”
Connectivity around the area of Hwy. 249 and Louetta Road was the driving factor in the creation of the Cypress Creek Master Trails Plan last year. The plan recommendations were created by consulting firm EHRA in February 2015 and were funded by five MUDs within the region with the goal of improving connectivity within the communities to local parks and amenities.
Two of the MUDs that helped fund and formulate the plan are located east of Hwy. 249: the Prestonwood Forest Utility District and MUD No. 468 in The Vintage.
The plan suggested the potential for nearly 50,000 linear feet of trails within the PFUD at a total cost of $5.26 million. While there has been discussion about development within the district, no plans are definitive, PFUD Director Derryl York said.
The district plans to meet with Precinct 4 sometime in February to discuss proposals to build trails and sidewalks. However, the district is engaged in discussions regarding the lease of an unused three-bay fire station to the greenway for storage and crews to maintain the trails for the greenway.
“Our board is enthusiastic about them using that fire station,” York said. “Otherwise it would just sit empty.”
In addition, a bridge development across the creek to enable a crew to access the fire station is being proposed. Once the fire station lease agreement is established, York said future developments in the district can be discussed.
“Hopefully, we could get an agreement in February, and they could feel comfortable with proceeding with the development of trails,” he said. “They would have the fire station under control and then can go ahead.”
The plan also suggested the possibility for nearly 70,000 feet of linear trails within MUD No. 468 at a potential total cost of $7.64 million. Some of the suggested trails proposed by the plan connected from the Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve to amenities throughout
“[MUD No.] 468’s main role in that trail system is the Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve park,” said Greer Pagan, the attorney who represents MUD No. 468. “I believe the county is moving forward with their work within that park. I think that park has always been considered the hub of the spoke system.”
Park, trail benefits
In addition to the recreational benefits they provide, parks, preserves and pathways offer a number of other benefits to communities, officials said.
Property values are higher in neighborhoods next to conservation easements, said Jennifer Lorenz, executive director of the Bayou Land
“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.”
Although a neighborhood might offer access to 3 miles of trails, Robertson said it’s easy to get tired of
those 3 miles.
“The idea is that instead of 3 miles, you’re tapped into 40 miles,” he said.
When there is green space instead of buildings, the natural environment absorbs rainwater, improving water quality, Robertson said.
“When you have a preserved corridor along the creek, that provides areas for runoff to soak in,” Robertson said. “As the water filters through the wetlands areas adjacent to the creek—people think of wetlands and they think of mosquitoes, frequently—but wetlands actually function as the kidneys in the natural system.”
Cleaning up the water in Cypress Creek is important because the creek flows into the San Jacinto River and then flows into Lake
Houston, he said.
“Our drinking water comes from there,” he said. “That water that flows down Cypress Creek goes into Lake Houston and gets cleaned up and piped out here. The greenway clearly has benefits for water quality in that sense.”