KSA Approves $60,000 to Begin Emergency Repairs to East End Park Immediately

At its monthly meeting, members of the KSA Parks Committee voted unanimously to approve $60,000 to begin emergency repairs to East End Park immediately. The vote followed a presentation by Bob Rehak (me), Park Steward; Dee Price, KSA President; and Maryanne Fortson, KSA Secretary and President of Fosters Mill.

Safety Concerns Jumpstart Repairs

The presentation detailed damage by Imelda and historic East Fork flooding that put most of the park under water during the tropical storm. Much of the discussion focused on safety concerns following a review of photos taken from land, boat and helicopter, including those below.

Pelican Overlook Trail consumed by erosion from river during Imelda.
Same scene from river shows undercut banks. People standing near river could trigger dangerous cave ins.
More trail erosion in East End Park. The river migrated approximately 50 feet south consuming large parts of two trails.

The photos (including those above) showed significant bank erosion to the northern shoreline of the park. The river undercut two trails as it migrated south about fifty feet during the storm. Parts of two trails fell into the river: the Pelican Overlook and Eagle Point Trails.

Photos (above) taken from Josh Alberson’s boat show significant undercutting of the shoreline in those areas. That means, someone standing on the edge could trigger a cave in.

KSA has tried to close the park three times, but people keep tearing down the warning signs.

Options Discussed but NOT Included in Emergency Repairs

As part of the discussion on the motion, the Committee examined several alternative solutions to restoring the park to full functionality.

  1. A short new trail (further inland) will reconnect the two parts of the severed Pelican Overlook Trail.
  2. Fallen logs will block off the parts of the existing trail in danger of caving into the river. Metal signs will be screwed into the logs warning people of dangers ahead.
  3. KSA will abandon the Eagle Point Trail and rename it the “Dunes Area” of the park. Residents can still access the Dunes Area, but no trails will run through it. This will reduce current and future repair and maintenance costs; repairing that area consumed a large portion of the budget after Harvey. The dunes should offer a new experience for park-goers, especially those who like climbing or hiking in sand for cardio workouts.
  4. As a separate project (not included in the $60,000), KSA will explore the cost of building a new trail that connects the South Loop and Pelican Overlook trails without going all the way back to the main entry trail. It would go to the south of the “overflow channel” that carries floodwater through that section of the park and would not require bridges.
  5. Also as a separate project, KSA would compare two options for replacing a portion of the South Loop trail. The portion – between Heron’s Rest and the turn-off to the main boardwalk – turns into mud after every flood. The mud comes from several inches of silt deposited on TOP of the crushed granite trail. The first option: relocating the trail atop a berm that parallels the current trail about 50 feet further inland. The second option: replacing the current trail with a low boardwalk, like the ones near Alligator Alley.

Dunes Area Will Revert to Nature

This birds’ nest used to be the height of a basketball hoop. After Imelda, it’s ankle high. Photo by John Knoezer.

Emergency Repairs Will Include…

The Parks Committee appointed Rehak, Fortson and Price as a subcommittee to approve emergency repair costs, rather than wait another month for the Parks Committee to meet again. Included in the emergency repairs:

  • Tree removal, where necessary
  • Patching trails scoured by the flood to create a stable hiking and jogging surface
  • Resurfacing most muddy areas with crushed granite
  • Boardwalk repairs
  • Restoring the telephone poles in the parking lot to their original positions
  • Replacing trail underliner on hills with gravel to create a more stable base for crushed granite. The latter will form the top finished surface.
  • Erecting barricades and signs warning of hazardous conditions where the river undercut existing trails
  • Cleaning all boardwalks and benches
  • Removing all flood debris from trails.

Restoring An Ecological Gem

An estimated 70,000 to 80,000 visitors per year use East End Park. It is an ecological gem, valued as much for the 150 bird species that migrate through the park and a herd of deer that lives in the park year round, as for the quiet, restorative atmosphere that bonds families together on nature walks.

Five area cross country teams also use the park for practice. Joggers value the soft surface of crushed granite. It’s much easier on knees and backs than concrete.

East End Park is also one of the few dog-friendly parks in the City of Houston. Different people like the park for different reasons. It has so much to offer.

I remember one time, seeing a man sitting at a new bench in a particularly beautiful part of the park. He came day after day to walk in beauty and meditate on nature. One day, I asked him what he got out of it. It gave him the motivation, he said, to cope with chemo.

The poster below shows how the park looked then and how it will soon look again.

What East End Park looked like BEFORE Imelda.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/3/2019 with gratitude to Josh Alberson, John Knoezer, Dee Price, Maryanne Fortson, National Helicopter Service and the entire KSA Parks Committee

765 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 14 since Imelda