Greenway projects are moving west of the highway. 249, wait for direction changes

The past decade has seen progress for the Cypress Creek and Spring Creek greenway projects with 33.2 miles of trails added since 2011. (Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)

About $33.5 million of the Harris County Flood Control District’s $2.5 billion bond package has been invested in land along Cypress and Spring creeks since 2018 as part of greenway projects underway — efforts that county leaders say will continue for decades.

The Cypress Creek and Spring Creek greenway projects, which each aim to connect more than 40 miles of walking and biking trails along the spring creeks and beyond, have been underway for nearly five decades, and completion could be just as far away. .

“Both of these projects will most likely continue for decades,” said Dennis Johnston, Harris County Parks Superintendent 4. Their realization is also subject to future funding opportunities.

The HCFCD is working to acquire the land needed for the projects, as the bond approved by voters in 2018 included funding of $100 million for the Cypress Creek watershed and $50 million for the Spring watershed. Creek for right-of-way acquisition and floodplain preservation.

Of this money, just under $33.5 million was spent and approximately 598 acres were acquired along Cypress and Spring creeks. Additionally, an additional 1,084 acres of land are being acquired.

Efforts to complete the Cypress Creek Greenway project have focused officials on the west side of the freeway. 249 near Kickerillo-Mischer Reserve. Meanwhile, in December, the fate of 206 acres of land along Cypress Creek, where Raveneaux Country Club once stood, was left in limbo after the HCFCD and landowner Cypress Forest Public Utility District failed to agree on the future use of the land.

While those plans are on hold, Harris County residents are also waiting to see how Commissioner’s Precincts 3 and 4 will be handled after the 10-year redistricting swaps the service areas of the two precincts.

To the west

The Cypress Creek and Spring Creek greenway projects were originally conceived in the late 1970s. Since 2011, approximately 12,000 acres of land have been acquired and 33.2 miles of trails have been constructed for the two projects, said officials of the compound 4.

Greenways are already making positive contributions to nearby communities, including flood prevention, wildlife conservation and recreational opportunities, Johnston said. Officials including Jill Bouillon, who is executive director of the Bayou Land Conservancy, said trail use has increased during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“Usage has increased dramatically since the start of the pandemic, with people using it for exercise, an outdoor classroom, a mental health break and more,” Bouillon said.

Since 2011, 13.38 miles have been traveled along Cypress Creek, which runs from Humble to Spring and Cypress.

About 30% of the Greenway’s planned 40 miles of trails have been connected so far, Johnston said. In the Spring area, the trails heading east from the Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve do not connect to Champion Forest Park, and the trails in Collins Park do not yet connect to Herman Little Park.

According to HCFCD officials, of the $100 million set aside from the 2018 flood obligation for Cypress Creek, just under $29 million has been spent so far. The acreage acquired by the HCFCD using these funds totals approximately 428 acres, while approximately 1,015 acres are in the process of being acquired.

While most of the work along Cypress Creek has been concentrated east of the highway. 249, next steps include connecting trails to the west, Johnston said. On the horizon is $1.2 million in underpasses, which will be located on the north and south sides of the highway. 249, and a $2.1 million boardwalk that will connect the 100-acre wood preserve to the Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve.

Construction of the projects was scheduled for September 2021 with completion estimated in the first quarter of 2022. However, Johnston said the projects have been delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Once the redistricting is finalized, it will be up to enclosure 3 to determine when these projects will continue.

Hewlett Packard Enterprises, the D. Bradley McWilliams YMCA in Cypress Creek and the Houston Northwest Baptist Church recently donated land to the project, Johnston said, meaning the Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve Loop to Faulkey Gully needs an additional plot of land to be completed.

“We are in talks with [the owners]”, Johnston said.

Additionally, Precinct 4 awarded a contract to build trails following Cypress Creek upstream from the Kickerillo-Mischer Reservation on the north and south side of the highway. 249, said Jim Robertson, president of the Cypress Creek Greenway project.

“The trail will connect from where the bridge is on the south side of Cypresswood [and] will eventually go up and connect to the trails that are at the YMCA,” Robertson said.

Another project that could also be added along Cypress Creek is a stormwater retention pond on the former Raveneaux Country Club site, which the HCFCD acquired for $11.4 million in January 2020. Negotiations over however, that ownership came to a halt in December and HCFCD officials had no update on the future of the project as of press time.

Ongoing negotiations

Once connected, the Spring Creek Greenway will extend 40 miles and follow Spring Creek from Humble to City Place and down to Tomball. Since the 2018 bond, HCFCD has invested approximately $4.5 million in Spring Creek and has acquired approximately 170 acres so far. Approximately 69 acres are still being acquired.

The Spring Creek Greenway contains 19.82 miles of unconnected trails and is about 50% complete, Johnston said. A lot of these trails in the Spring area are already merged; however, a quarter-mile section that would connect the City Place trails to Dennis Johnston Park has yet to be built.

This missing section of greenway is adjacent to the ExxonMobil campus at City Place. Negotiations between Harris County and ExxonMobil executives over the track have stalled for years, according to Mike Howlett, who retired from the county in 2019 after 25 years.

“[ExxonMobil] leadership would change or different things would happen that would pretty much put the county back to square one trying to negotiate a trail layout,” he said.

Since then, negotiations with ExxonMobil over the trail have been taken over by Coventry, the developer of City Place.

“They agreed to build this missing quarter-mile connection on I-45,” Johnston said.

ExxonMobil declined to comment on the negotiations. Coventry did not respond to requests for comment.

Change of direction

The projects were a collaboration between Harris County police stations and District 4 leading efforts in the Spring area. The ten-year redistricting probably coming into force at the end of March, the spring will now fall under constituency 3 instead of constituency 4.

“I don’t know what the future holds for Spring Creek Greenway,” Howlett said. “Because we don’t even know anything about the new commissioner who has just arrived in this new police station. I am therefore very concerned about the future of the greenway.

In a Jan. 27 interview, Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey said he was already working with Clark Candon, a Houston-based landscape architecture firm, to create a parks master plan for the complex. of the enclosure.

” I defend [Precinct 4] Commissioner [Jack] Cagle’s commitment to parks,” he said. “We think [parks] are a priority. We are going to do great things in our parks in the new [Precinct] 3. »