Several parks projects throughout the Katy area will see completion in 2015. Projects funded through the city of Katy, Harris County Precinct 3, the Willowfork Drainage District and the Interstate Municipal Utility District will either begin or be completed this year to provide residents with additional green space and outdoor entertainment.

Projects scheduled for completion in 2015 include improvements to Mary Jo Peckham, Mason Creek and Rick Rice parks as well as a new arboretum to be built within Katy City Park. The three acre arboretum will be the city's first.

"We want to have a nice, well-developed green space that people can come out and walk through," said Brad Barnes, director of city of Katy Parks and Recreation department.

Plans are also underway for future parks in Katy, including a 32-acre park to be located north of Cinco Ranch High School, a potential skate park and a project that would create a trail system connecting many of the city's existing parks, schools and municipal buildings.

Projects underway

The first of the park projects will be completed in April, said Mike McMahan, parks superintendent for Harris County Precinct 3. The project, a senior citizen playground at Mary Jo Peckham Park, is the first of its kind in the Greater Houston area.

"It's a series of playground-type activities, including a rope walk, swivel chairs and other features, such as a squiggly pipe that you'll have to move a ring over without touching it," McMahan said. "[The playground] will help senior citizens overcome injuries, gain agility and improve their hand-eye coordination."

Katy City Park will soon be the home of the city's first arboretum. The 3-acre arboretum will be located northeast of the intersection of Franz Road and Katy City Park Road within the bounds of the existing park and will feature pathways and informational signage pertaining to the trees.

Early plans called for construction on the arboretum to begin in spring 2015, but Barnes said those plans have been delayed.

"We're waiting on Katy City Council to approve a contract with the consultant that is going to do the design of the arboretum," Barnes said.

Once the contract is approved, the design process for the arboretum is expected to take three to four months. Though construction could begin as early as mid-summer, it will likely be delayed until the fall, Barnes said.

"We're probably not going to start in the summer," he said. "When you're going to be moving trees of significant size, you've only got a couple of windows to do that in—the spring and the fall. When the weather is cooler the trees go dormant, and that's the best time to move them. We might be able to start some of the side projects in the arboretum in the summer, but we won't start planting until the fall."

Despite the anticipated delay the project is expected to be completed in late 2015 with a cost estimated at $50,000. A $20,000 donation from CenterPoint Energy will pay for a portion of the project. CenterPoint has pledged an additional $15,000 to be dispersed throughout the next three years. Additional funds for the project will be taken from the park department's general fund.

Construction on improvements to the 7.4-acre Rick Rice Park will also be completed by the end of 2015, said Rick Ellis, board director for the Interstate MUD.

The park, located west of Westgreen Boulevard, between I-10 and Kingsland Boulevard, has been under varying degrees of construction for the better part of a decade. It will soon be the site of Francesca's Garden, a multiuse urban garden that will include water features, a rose garden, an exhibition area and open space, Ellis said.

"Francesca's Garden is our final touch for the whole park, and then we'll be done," Ellis said.

Ongoing development

The largest of the park projects under development is the 32-acre Willow Fork Park to be constructed north of Cinco Ranch High School. Construction on the park is expected to begin in the summer, said Matt Klein, senior associate with TBG Partners, the landscape architecture firm hired by the WDD to oversee the design of the park.

"It's going to be a passive-use recreation area with open lawns; trails; space for playing disc golf; and biking, jogging and walking paths," Klein said.

The $3.2 million park will be paid for out of the second phase of a $29 million bond passed by Katy residents in November 2011 for improvement projects throughout the city.

Harris County Precinct 3 has planned an expansion of Mason Creek Park that will also bring additional trails and an expanded playground to the area northwest of the intersection of I-10 and Grand Parkway, McMahan said.

"We'll be working on property that's always been there but has been left undeveloped," McMahan said. "There's not a great amount of work to do as it's already a functioning park and trails system, and that won't be disturbed at all during the construction."

Construction on the expansion of the park is expected to begin in the second or third quarter of 2015 and be completed in three to four months, McMahan said.

Future park projects

Parks projects for 2016 and beyond will depend on the city of Katy Parks and Recreation Department's fiscal year 2015–16 budget. Budget talks will begin in the spring, Barnes said.

"We have a wish list that we've put together, things that we've identified as goal projects for the next three to five years," he said.

These projects include a possible skate park and a greenbelt project that would create a trail system connecting all of the city's existing parks, Barnes said.

"The skate park we've already discussed at some length, and we've passed that along. We think the council has looked favorably upon it," Barnes said. "There's a huge push to see the development of a greenbelt to tie in all of the different public spaces within the city, the parks and schools and municipal areas. We're really trying to develop the downtown Katy area right now. For people on the north side of town to be able to walk or ride their bikes to the downtown area would be a huge benefit to the community."

Barnes said the parks department also hopes to one-day build a recreation center.

"Looking at all the growth we've got coming in the next five to 10 years, we think the public could be well served with the construction of a true recreation center," Barnes said.

View a PDF Breakdown of parks in the Katy area