East End Park from the Air: A Wetlands Success Story

One of the most beautiful parts of Kingwood also helps protect the area from flooding: East End Park. If you’ve never seen it, you should. The park comprises 158 acres and contains about five miles of nature trails. With the help of boardwalks, the trails wind through wetlands that form the perimeter of the park.

Those wetlands help slow runoff during storms. And the park itself puts distance and elevation between the East Fork of the San Jacinto and the nearest homes.

Park Almost Became Another Subdivision During 1980s

The park was not always destined to become a park. Originally Friendswood Development wanted to build another subdivision where the park is now. As Friendswood cut streets in nearby Kings Point, they dumped the extra dirt in what is now the park’s giant meadow. That’s why it’s so much higher than surrounding wetlands.

These meadows comprise approximately 45 acres of tall grass, an abundant food source for migrating birds.
Looking south. The East Fork San Jacinto is on the left. Sand damage from Harvey and Imelda at Eagle Point is in the foreground. Birdhouses once 10-feet up on trees are now at ankle height.
Looking west from the north side of the park on the left. The East Fork (out of frame to the right) and Caney Creek converge at East End Park’s Eagle Point. Also to the right is the 5000-acre Lake Houston Nature Park.
Looking south again. The East Fork on the left empties into Lake Houston in background. Trails border the river within the trees.

But in 1988, the EPA issued a cease and desist order because they were jeopardizing the wetlands. Blocked from further development, Friendswood tried to turn a problem into an amenity that could add value to homebuyers. The company donated the land to the Kingwood Service Association to own and operate as a park for the benefit of all Kingwood residents.

Development as Nature Park in 2000s

Not much happened with the park for about a decade. Then KSA, with the help of volunteer groups, like the Boy Scouts, started building a small trail network, mostly on the north side of the park.

Around 2000, KSA debated the future of the remainder of the park. Should they turn it into more sports fields? Or keep it a nature park? The nature park faction won out. And for the next fifteen years, KSA slowly built new trails and improved old ones as money became available.

Birder’s Wonderland

The Lake Houston Nature Club has documented approximately 150 species of birds in the park, some threatened or endangered. In season, birders seem everywhere. Migrating birds munch on the abundant tall grass which seems to go to seed just in time for the migration.

In the park, I’ve spotted everything from painted buntings to majestic bald eagles. In fact, part of the park is named Eagle Point because of the frequent eagle sightings there.

Healing Power of Nature

Shortly after KSA put in the Eagle Point Trail, I encountered a man sitting in the same place on the river bank day after day. I asked him what his attraction was to that particular place. He said that it helped him heal. I asked if he wanted to explain that. He said he was undergoing treatment for cancer and the the beauty gave him the will to go on living. I suspect he’s not the only one who has found sustenance in nature there.

One often sees families walking with young children there. I also suspect kids learn to translate the love they feel from parents on such walks into a lifelong love of nature.

Living Lessons

Sadly both Harvey and Imelda completely inundated the park. Eagle Point became covered with 10-15 feet of sand which killed many of the trees there and filled in some of the wetlands. Regardless, the park remains a natural gem and a living lesson about the cycles of nature.

The pictures below show some of the natural beauty. To get to the park, take Kingwood Drive east until you run out of road. You can see the park entrance from the parking lot.

East End Park poster.
Sunrise over Lake Houston from Kingwood’s East End Park at Otter Point. By Dr. Charles Campbell.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/8/2020

1168 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 416 since Imelda