The Woodlands Township directors spoke at length during the May 22 meeting regarding ongoing disagreements within communities over park improvements, citing the balance between maintaining green spaces while also meeting demands for new amenities, such as pickleball courts.

The details

Following a request for $1.6 million to add tennis and pickleball courts to Forestgate, Windvale and Creekwood parks, township members discussed pausing park improvements following community backlash toward several park improvement projects started in the past year.

The request to construct additional tennis and pickleball courts was originally part of the Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment conducted by the township in 2022. However, projects that began construction in 2023, such as bathrooms at Capstone Park and artificial turf installation at Falconwing Park, led to strong resident opposition at multiple meetings as residents argued against the projects.

“I'm wondering if our needs assessment really fits what people want today,” board chair Ann Snyder said during the meeting.

Snyder outlined several main concerns over park improvements since the 2022 needs assessment, which included:
  • Keeping more forested areas in parks
  • Interacting with residents regarding drainage impacts
  • Prioritizing repairing existing amenities, such as bathrooms and playgrounds

Township Chief Operating Officer Chris Nunes echoed comments made by John McGowan, director of the parks and recreation department, and said township staff does work with consultants to take into consideration placement of new amenities at parks.

What they’re saying
  • “The Woodlands is an active and vibrant community, and the continued requests for additional tennis and pickleball courts is overwhelming,” board director Linda Nelson said. “I understand there will be selected trees removed for these courts, but we are very in tune with tree removals referenced by approving $1 million for reforestation this past budget year.”
  • “I would caution replacing one recreational element for another,” Nunes said. “There are people who are passionate about pickleball; there's people who are passionate about existing gardens. If you take that community garden, you will have people right here providing concerns.”
  • “We've got existing infrastructure that's not looking good. ... We've got to upkeep what we have. It’s critically important,” board director Brad Bailey said.
What’s next

The township directors voted 5-1 to postpone the approval of new park improvements, and requested Nunes and McGowan look at other options for placing amenities, such as sports parks. While no timeline was provided at the meeting for the pause to review park needs and timelines, Nunes did say studies and infrastructure surveys can take many months to complete.

McGowan said in March, the parks and recreation department did begin making changes to how it interacts with residents surrounding park projects. Some of the changes include:
  • Stamping resident survey letters to prevent them from being thrown away
  • Placing project notice signs before construction starts