Harris County Precinct 2 is designing a 19-acre park in Atascocita that will break ground in the second quarter of 2018. Precinct 4 is working to acquire new tracts of land to provide connections between communities and parks and trails, county officials said.
Meanwhile, Harris County Precinct 1 is conducting a study of its green spaces called Park Smart, which will examine accessibility to its parks.
With Harris County considering a potential $1 billion bond referendum for flood mitigation projects in 2018, the county could accelerate green space purchases along Spring and Cypress creeks, Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle said.
“The time to buy land for a green space development is not after houses are built into it but before,” Cagle said.
Adding to the Greenway
Precinct 4 is eyeing two properties along the Spring Creek Greenway— which is a connection of green space and trails that will span several consecutive miles between Kingwood and The Woodlands when completed.
The county has already connected more than 13 miles of the greenway between Hwy. 59 and I-45 and plans to connect to trails in Kingwood, said Dennis Johnston, parks director for Harris County Precinct 4.
“Any time you take these sections of land located along the waterways and preserve them in their natural state … it does prevent developers from building infrastructure where it shouldn’t necessarily be—located down in the floodway flood plain,” said Mike Howlett, Harris County Precinct 4 special projects coordinator for the Spring Creek Greenway.
Cagle said he believes preserved green space is helpful for flood mitigation.
“When we have flooding, the parks fill up with water and it’s [a] horrible thing that the park is filled with water, but it’s a wonderful thing that it’s in a park and not a home,” Cagle said.
The county is in negotiations to acquire land that was formerly known as Edgewater Park east of Hwy. 59, Howlett said. The cost of the acquisition and renovation on the park is still undetermined, he said.
Howlett said the 19-acre property will again allow access to the San Jacinto River and could be used for public watercraft, such as canoes and kayaks up to larger boats and jet skis. The county ultimately plans to obtain more acreage around Edgewater, he said.
Along with the Edgewater Park acquisition, Precinct 4 is also planning the eventual construction of a 1-mile trail from the Hwy. 59 feeder road south of Bevil Jarrell Memorial Bridge to the Townsen Boulevard Park and Ride.
Construction could begin in 2021 if the county obtains federal Transportation Improvement Program grant funding through the Houston-Galveston Area Council.
Not including design planning and consultant expenses, the estimated cost of the trail is $1.7 million, Howlett said.
Park planned in Atascocita
Harris County is in the final phase of designing a new park and dog park in Atascocita. The $3 million construction project will begin in the second quarter of 2018 and wrap up in early 2019. Precinct 2 bought 19 acres of land for the park in February 2016 at $4.3 million, located south of the intersection of West Lake Houston and Will Clayton parkways.
Precinct 2 will fund the projects through their budget.
Among planned features for the park are a 2-acre pond, a boardwalk over the pond and a main trail with feeder trails. It could also feature two playgrounds, said Jeremy Phillips, Precinct 2 senior director of infrastructure.
Now in the last portion of the design phase, the county has incorporated the community’s feedback into its future park, Phillips said. However, details on the size and cost of a potential dog park are limited, as the county is still in the planning process, Phillips said.
“Our intention is to acquire some adjacent land to accommodate a future dog park,” he said. “It’s not going to a huge dog park, but it will be a feature that won’t take away from the rest of the natural elements and the play areas.”
In an effort to address growth and the inequity of green space throughout the precinct, Precinct 1 is conducting a $549,000 study to examine residents’ accessibility to parks. It is funded through the Houston Endowment—a philanthropic nonprofit—and Precinct 1.
The precinct is soliciting community feedback as a part of the study and is looking for ways to improve its green spaces. The Park Smart study is expected to be completed by early 2019, so projects have not been identified yet.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said Park Smart will study which residents are within a 10-minute walk or drive to a park and study the ability of residents to walk or bike through the district. The plan will help the county develop safe hike and bike trails as well as street bikeways and sidewalks.
Ellis said once the Park Smart study is complete, the precinct will develop a multiyear park development plan.
“Parks and green space must be reasonably accessible, but accessibility should not be singularly defined by providing access by automobile,” Ellis said.