Construction has begun in The Woodlands area on Harris County Precinct 4’s project to complete portions of the continuous Spring Creek Greenway trail. When completed, the local portion will run between I-45 and the western border of the township, officials said.

Areas under construction by the county’s internal “Trailblazer” crew this fall include locations from Burroughs Park on Hufsmith Road to Creekside Park West, said Chris Nunes, director of parks and recreation in The Woodlands.

As the boundaries of Harris County precincts are in the process of being redrawn through the redistricting process, the effects of this on the greenway project were not yet clear as of press time, Nunes said. Areas currently Precinct 4 will become Precinct 3, but a timeline for the change has not been established.

According to the office of Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, redistricting will not interrupt road and bridge maintenance, or access to parks and facilities.

The greenway is a 12-foot-wide asphalt trail constructed by Precinct 4 that will ultimately extend 40 miles from Hwy. 59 to Hwy. 249.

“[We are] trying to identify where we can take advantage of economies of scale where the greenway will be building the larger bridges that the nature trail can take advantage of and keep some separation of the trails because there are different levels of experiences from a recreation perspective,” Nunes said.The project also involves collaboration among Bayou Land Conservancy and The Howard Hughes Corp., which through The Woodlands Development Co. owns the land and provides easements, Nunes said.

A letter of intent signed in September between the township and Harris County states the township will provide $5 million for construction around bridges and river crossings for the Spring Creek Greenway which is beyond the capacity of the county crews, Nunes said.

Precinct 4 was planning to handle the project management and administration for the project, and the township is involved in elements like pedestrian bridge crossings, such as one at the Rob Fleming Recreation Center, he said. The $5 million budgeted for the work will come from township reserves, which fund one-time expenses, Nunes said.

Natural trails

In addition to providing recreation across the corridor, the greenway trail can help people gain confidence in hiking before they tackle the more demanding Spring Creek Nature Trail, a dirt trail which runs parallel or close to the greenway trail, he said.

“People who may be not as adventurous [can] go on [the greenway], ... and as they get more confidence, ... then hopefully eventually we will get them on the Spring Creek Nature Trail to venture farther into the woods,” he said.

The process is assisted by the Bayou Land Conservancy, a nonprofit land conservation organization that has conservation easements on about 14,000 acres of land in areas of Texas between Bryan and Beaumont, including The Woodlands, Director Jill Boullion said.

“[BLC] are providing supplies; [they have] expertise in small creek crossings we don’t have and a passionate group of volunteers,” Nunes said.

The system of trails is complex because while the Spring Creek Nature Trail is a natural dirt path extending 14 miles, the greenway trails are wider and paved.

The Spring Creek Nature Trail runs through the George Mitchell Nature Preserve from Creekside Park to the Montgomery County Preserve off Budde Road. A section was recently extended to Burroughs Park in the vicinity of where construction is now taking place for the greenway.

Increased interest

Since 2020, the nature trail has seen increased use, officials said. It has seen improvements in the past year including a new boardwalk, said Suzanne Simpson, land stewardship director for Bayou Land Conservancy.

“Some of the impetus for the story is that last year whenever the coronavirus hit a lot of people headed outside to areas that they haven’t been to before,” she said. “There was a 400% increase in trail traffic. That increase has been maintained, and a lot of people learned about the Spring Creek Nature Trail; they weren’t just one-time visitors.”

Other improvements to the nature trail include a Spanish-language app the BLC is developing that will offer information for trail walkers based on their location, Boullion said.