More than five years after land was donated for Broussard Community Park in Tomball, construction is winding down, said Beth Jones, the director of the Tomball Public Works Department. Crews are adding a sand volleyball court, a wildflower meadow and walking trails at the park on Hufsmith Road, she said.
“I would say this winter there’s going to [be] a lot of traction on it starting to look more and more like a usable park,” she said.
However, Broussard Park is just one of several parks the city of Tomball is improving this year, as the city’s fiscal year 2019-20 budget reserves more than $420,000 for park projects, according to budget information. The city has seven parks with one park proposed on Hufsmith Road, according to city information.
“We have a lot of parks to check out,” said Brian Quinn, the president of the Tomball Little League Association. “There’s just such a good variety of things to do at the parks in the area; you can pretty much find anything you’re looking for.”
An update to the city’s comprehensive plan approved Oct. 7—outlining •the community’s vision for the city’s future—recommends the city expand parks and recreation areas and establish a network of trails to connect key destinations in Tomball, the comprehensive plan reads.
Of the 269 residents who responded to an online survey during the comprehensive plan process in 2018, 53% said the city should enhance its existing parks over pursuing new parks.
“I think you’re seeing more of a desire from people that move here for parks because what we’ve seen with the development trends is with these homes, people are building bigger houses on smaller lots, so they want the open space to run around and play ball,” Tomball Community Development Director Craig Meyers said.
Broussard, Mathews parks
Land for Broussard Park was donated in July 2014 by Humana Inc. CEO Bruce Broussard, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported.
Since that time, the city has set aside $1.75 million for the park, with an additional $860,000 to extend water lines to Zion and Hufsmith roads as well as the park, city officials said.
In October, Tomball City Council approved an agreement with Harris County Precinct 4 to join Broussard Park with the county’s Mathews Park, which share a fence line, officials said.
“We’re basically just taking a fence down between the two parks and combining their two features, and so now people will have a much larger park with a lot more features in it,” Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle said.
The agreement authorizes the county to develop trails and maintain the parks, as Precinct 4 has park attendants and specially trained constable’s office deputies, Cagle said. In return, the city provides water to Mathews Park and storage for county maintenance equipment, the agreement reads.
Jones said Precinct 4 crews were anticipated to add 8-foot-wide asphalt trails at Broussard Park by late November, which was after publication. These trails will connect to existing trails at Mathews Park.
“It’ll be kind of a nice, flowing set of trails,” Jones said.
Tomball City Council awarded contracts Nov. 4 for installing electrical utilities and constructing restrooms and a concession building. Additionally, the park will feature picnic tables, benches, exercise stations, a sensory garden and a bird’s nest swing, a fishing pier and a stocked pond, soccer fields and a sand volleyball court, Jones said. A wildflower meadow is also in the works, and the park is expected to fully open in mid-2020.
“Hopefully, by the spring or summer, you’ll see probably an acre, acre and a half of wildflowers on the property as well,” Jones said during a Nov. 4 City Council meeting.
To expand recreational opportunities within the city, the comprehensive plan recommends the city pursue a parks master plan in three to five years, which would detail how to address parks and recreation needs, according to the plan. Also, the plan encourages coordination with developers to preserve, design and build open spaces, parks and recreational amenities.
In the meantime, the city has reserved about $2.5 million since FY 2016-17 for park upgrades, city budgets show.
“Knowing that a city the size of Tomball that has as many amenities as we have and then they’re making [parks] a priority is to me definitely an attraction to want to come and stay in the city of Tomball,” said William A. Harris, president of the Country Meadows Community Improvement Association.
Since FY 2018-19, the city has set aside $200,000 to replace the interactive wooden playground and improve drainage at Jerry Matheson Park, Jones said. The park, a project of the Tomball Rotary Club, needs to be updated to include safer play areas, Jones said.
“The tough part is it ages; it’s wood. We now know more about what is safer structures,” Jones said. “Whatever we do with [the playground], we want to have a feel that maintains that identity where it’s not just the same open-a-catalogue, cookie-cutter play structures.”
Jones said the project is in design, but additional funds may be needed in FY 2020-21 to address drainage and playground renovations all at once.
The FY 2019-20 budget also allots $50,000 for studying how to improve Theis Attaway Nature Center. City staff are working with an environmental group to develop a visioning document, which will be followed by a master plan outlining what amenities and facilities might need to be developed, Jones said.
“We really want to redefine the focus of what the center is supposed to be, so once everybody is on the same page, then we can move forward about prioritizing the development of the center,” Assistant City Manager David Esquivel said.
Additional projects this winter include resurfacing the pavilion at Juergens Park, maintenance on the Depot caboose and resurfacing tennis courts at Matheson Park, Jones said.
As part of a separate 2020-23 Strategic Management Plan council approved Nov. 4, the city is considering a feasibility study on Earl F. Martin, M.D. Park, a 3.1-acre undeveloped site at Hufsmith Road and Peach Street donated to the city in 1986 for a future park, according to city information. This study would determine which type of park could be developed, Esquivel said.
The creation of a trails master plan is also suggested in one to two years, according to the comprehensive plan. Residents surveyed during the comprehensive plan process said trails should provide connections to parks and the downtown area as well as schools, sidewalks and Spring Creek.
“What I heard in the [comprehensive] plan that needs to happen was the communities need to be connected to the parks. You have these parks that don’t have pedestrian accessibility to them,” Meyers said. “There’s hundreds of homes going in within a mile of Broussard Park, but you can’t walk there unless you walk in the road.”
Meyers said adding trails around M121, a drainage channel near Cherry Street, was suggested during the comprehensive plan process.
Additionally, Precinct 4 continues work on the Spring Creek Greenway, a connection of green space and trails along Spring Creek, and has acquired much of the right of way for the greenway from west of Spring Creek Park in Tomball to Kingwood—where trail construction is ongoing, Cagle said. However, land within the city of Tomball between Hwy. 249 and FM 2978 and the area around Exxon Mobil’s campus at I-45 has not been acquired for the project. Discussions are ongoing with property owners, he said.
A future Willow Creek Greenway and connection between the two greenways are also proposed, Cagle said. However, a timeline for the Willow Creek project is unknown.
“With all of the new homes that are being built within the city limits, I think that’s what’s driving a lot of the demand for the parks and developing the parks that we do have within city limits,” Esquivel said.