East End Park Sunrise by Charlie Campbell

Preservation: A Natural, Low-Cost Form of Flood Mitigation

Most people think of Kingwood’s East End Park as a place to commune with nature. But it began as a natural, low-cost form of flood mitigation.

When Friendswood was building Kingwood, it toyed with the idea of building homes where the park now stands. Instead, it bequeathed the land to the Kingwood Service Association (KSA). KSA now maintains the property as a nature park for the benefit of all Kingwood residents. Leaving it natural also helps protect people from flooding.

Sometimes the best way to deal with the side effects of development is simply to preserve nature where flooding occurs most frequently. And it certainly occurs frequently along the East Fork of the San Jacinto River. In areas like these, parks provide a buffer. And that creates positive value while avoiding negative costs.

How Parks Create Positive Value

The main features offered in the 158-acre East End Park are tranquil, yet breathtaking views provided free of charge by Mother Nature. The park includes forests, wetlands, and natural meadows that provide food and habitat for wildlife. People often see families of deer munching on grass at the edge of the forests. Occasionally, visitors sight eagles, alligators, river otters, foxes, coyotes and bobcats.

KSA East End Park Poster. Photos by Bob Rehak.

Birders also find the park an urban wonderland. Forty-plus acres of tall grass meadows draw approximately 140 species of birds during the spring and fall migrations. Many of those are threatened or endangered. The Lake Houston Area Nature Club hosts birding tours here from September to May. They start at 7:30 AM from the parking lot at the east end of Kingwood Drive and usually last till about 10am.

Another major attraction of the park: spectacular sunrises most mornings.

East End Park at Sunrise by Dr. Charles Campbell.

Dr. Charles Campbell hikes several miles in the park each morning. He took the picture above not far from the main entrance at the east end of Kingwood Drive. He also took the one below at Otter Point.

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

The park draws an estimated 100,000 visitors per year, but it rarely seems crowded because the visitors disperse among dense forests along 5+ miles of trails throughout the day.

East End Park is an exceptional amenity for Kingwood residents, gifted to all by a visionary developer. Was it totally selfless? Of course not. Nationally, research shows that proximity to parks can increase home values up to 20%. In short, people like parks.

Also Consider Cost Avoidance of Preservation

During Harvey, the entire park went underwater. Most of it also went underwater during the Tax Day, Memorial Day, and Imelda storms. Can you imagine what would have happened had Friendswood built homes here?

There would have been tens of millions of dollars in damages, losses to taxpayer-subsidized flood insurance, disaster relief funds, and the overhead of a bureaucracy to administer aid. Buyouts and demolition would have been required. Flood mitigation in the form of channels and detention basins would have cost tens of millions more. And all the positive values would have been lost.

But by just leaving it natural, we collectively saved all those personal and public expenses. We also created a beautiful “people magnet” that sustains home values instead of undermining them. Trail repair costs after Harvey totaled only $60,000.

That’s less than the cost to repair one average home flooded to a depth of a foot or more. And that’s the value of preservation – the natural, low-cost form of flood mitigation.

Sometimes we need to learn to just let nature be.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/18/22 with thanks to Dr. Charles Campbell

1815 Days since Hurricane Harvey