New Edgewater Park: First Good Thing to Come Out of Harvey

Until now, any good news coming out of Harvey has had to do with mitigation or restoration – preventing future flooding or getting things back to the way they were. Here’s the first story about creating something new out of Harvey’s wreckage that will go far beyond what we had, improve the entire Lake Houston area, and benefit the entire county.

Harris County has bought four parcels of land for a 90-acre park at Hamblen Road and Loop 494. The new Edgewater Park will be built around an old, defunct private park on the San Jacinto River near U.S. 59 that went by the same name. However, the new Edgewater Park will cover much more area, include many new amenities, and be a gateway to new recreational opportunities.

Tentative plans for a new Edgewater Park at Hamblen Road and Loop 494

Features of the new Edgewater Park

According to Dennis Johnston, County Precinct 4 Parks Director, the park will contain nature trails, picnic areas, a playground, rest rooms, an office and a boat ramp among many other features. From the park near U.S. 59, boaters will be able to put their boats, kayaks and canoes into the West Fork.

“There are currently no public boat ramps in that area along the San Jacinto River,” says Johnston. “Edgewater Park will provide residents access to a brand new, doublewide concrete boat launch.”

Hopefully, by the time the park opens, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have completed dredging that reach of the San Jacinto River. From Edgewater Park, boaters will be able to explore Spring Creek, Lake Houston, and the East Fork as well as connecting creeks and bayous.

City of Houston Chief Resiliency Officer Stephen Costello announced at the Kingwood Town Hall meeting on October 9, 2018, that the City hopes to eventually dredge the entire West Fork between 59 and Lake Houston.

New Trailhead for Spring Creek Greenway

The park will also form the new trailhead for the Spring Creek Greenway, a network of hike and bike trails that will eventually connect the Woodlands and Kingwood. Just last week, Harris County Precinct 4 finished the last connection between U.S. 59 and I-45.

The most recent iteration of the Edgewater Park plans shows a re-routing of Hamblen Road, but that is far from certain at this point. Feasibility depends on approval of a grant request by the county’s Transportation Enhancement Program.

Johnston also said that he hopes to establish a bike rental program at the Townsend Park ‘n Ride and a connector trail between the Park ‘n Ride and the Greenway. “That would enable people from the City to take buses or cars out to Humble on weekends when the Park ‘n Ride isn’t being used and make use of the Spring Creek Greenway,” said Johnston.

Connection to Kingwood Trail Network

Plans also indicate a possible connection to Kingwood’s trail network. However, the Houston Parks Board, not the County, is working on that portion of the project as part of their Bayou Greenways 2020 program.

Harris County is currently buying out properties that have repeatedly flooded between Hamblen Road and the river. For instance, the County has already initiated a five-phase buyout program for the townhome/apartments along Marina Drive in Forest Cove that were destroyed in Harvey. The county expects to close on many of those properties soon.

Matt Zeve, Deputy Executive Director of the Harris County Flood Control District, said, “The apartments will either become parkland or be planted with native vegetation and allowed to go back to nature and function as a floodplain.”

Forest Cove Townhome destroyed by Harvey.

Timetable for Edgewater Park Development

Harris County’s web site says that Phase I of the Edgewater project (south of Hamblen) will begin in mid-2019. It will include the boat launch, parking lots, entry roads, rest rooms, a concession stand, park lighting, a fish-cleaning station, concrete picnic tables and trail access to the Spring Creek Greenway.

Phase II of the project (north of Hamblen), including the possible re-routing of Hamblen itself), will begin later. Phase II includes development of a trail system that will highlight interesting natural features of the ecosystem, including cypress ponds, with interpretative stops and signage along the trail.

“The park will be fully staffed and maintained by Precinct 4 and patrolled by constable park deputies. Edgewater Park will be an important anchor park for the Spring Creek Greenway and a day-use park that residents of all ages can enjoy,” Johnston says.

“If Hamblen is re-routed, it will NOT affect the cypress ponds.” The ponds are one of the signature features of the area and a natural treasure that the county is preserving. “The floodplain forest of Edgewater Park is a varied habitat with beautiful Texas red yucca shrubs, bluejack oaks, and old cypress trees,” says Johnston.

When asked when construction could begin, Johnston replied, “It depends on when our grant application to Texas Parks and Wildlife is processed. We should hear by February of 2019, but Parks and Wildlife sometimes approves grants and releases money months later. As a result, our construction could begin as early as May of 2019 or as late as January of 2020.

Harris County Precinct 4 is already fencing off Edgewater Park in preparation for construction.

“In the meantime, we are fencing off the area.  Architects have already been hired. Design work is in progress. We have wetlands and archeology studies to perform. We’re not wasting time,” says Johnston.

Parks Role in Reducing Flooding

By preserving this area as green space, the county will reduce the risk of flooding. Green spaces absorb more water than developed areas during rainfalls. They also slow the rate of runoff. “The ground acts as a sponge,” Johnston says.

Posted on October 18, 2018 by Bob Rehak

415 Days since Hurricane Harvey