Tag Archive for: Harris County Precinct 4

Spring Creek Greenway Threatened by New Development

One of the most popular natural attractions in the north Houston area is the Spring Creek Greenway. But between mile marker 8 and 8.5, a large new development called Breckenridge East has cut across the trail, leaving a massive scar through the forest to accommodate its drainage.

Nature Interrupted

Since 1979, Harris County Precinct 4 commissioners have added to the beautiful trail system between I-69 and I-45. The Spring Creek Greenway currently connects and protects approximately 7,000 acres of forest in Harris County, preserving this ecological gem as a mecca for ecotourism, education, and outdoor recreation.

But yesterday, a reader and cyclist, Ken Matthews, alerted me to an issue.

Photo by Ken Matthews on 10/31/2021. Taken from Spring Creek Greenway looking toward new development.
NE portion of development from the air. Oval indicates where it cuts across greenway. Spring Creek cuts through top of frame from left to right.

Role of Forests in Flood Prevention

According to Harris County Precinct 4 and Harris County Flood Control District:

  • Forests buffer against flooding by absorbing rainfall in their canopies and in the soil.
  • Trees act as natural water filters and significantly slow the movement of storm water, which lowers runoff, soil erosion, and flooding.
  • From an economic viewpoint, communities that use this important function of trees and canopy cover may spend less money on other flood control methods.

Infiltration rates for forested areas are 10-15 times greater than for equivalent areas of turf and grass.

Harris County Flood Control District

Recipe for Runoff

In the shot above, you can see the beginning of what looks like a large detention pond. But as we saw with Woodridge Village flooding in 2019, putting in the detention ponds AFTER the land has been cleared can be a recipe for runaway runoff during big storms.

Lush forest replaced by vast expanse of sterile nothingness.
Entire development. A local resident told me that during Harvey, water came up to Cypresswood Drive in the lower left. That put this entire area underwater.
Breckenridge East is in far upper left. Another development a little more than a block away is also cutting into the forest. Cypresswood Drive in foreground.
Looking NW from second development across Planet Ford Stadium toward Breckenridge East, one can see a whole series of developments starting to encroach on the Spring Creek floodplain and greenway.

Support Bayou Land Conservancy

The Bayou Land Conservancy (BLC) plays a vital role in protecting and maintaining the Spring Creek Greenway, which is the longest, contiguous, urban forested corridor in the country.

When finished, the Greenway will ultimately:

  • Stretch over 40 miles,
  • Reach from Highway 249 in Tomball east to US 59 in Kingwood, and 
  • Cover more than 12,000 acres. 

Please support the Bayou Land Conservancy. They preserve land along streams for flood control, clean water, and wildlife. Not to mention future generations.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/1/2021 with thanks to Harris County Precinct 4, Bayou Land Conservancy and Ken Matthews

1425 Days since Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

Where Flood Mitigation Money Has Really Gone: Part One

“Equity” proponents would have you believe that Harris County flood mitigation money is all going to high-income neighborhoods. However, data obtained from Harris County Flood Control under the Freedom of Information Act shows that construction spending for flood mitigation is highly concentrated in Precinct 1, which contains many low-to-moderate-income neighborhoods.

At the last Harris County Commissioner’s Court meeting, the issue of “equity” in the prioritization of bond funds came up again. Commissioner Rodney Ellis from Precinct 1 invited several groups to testify about how Low-to-Moderate Income (LMI) groups suffered at the expense of more affluent areas like Kingwood.

Alleged Bias Against LMI Groups Distorts True Picture

They alleged bias against LMI groups by focusing on only one aspect of flood mitigation: buyouts. They said that high-income areas received preference over low-income areas when buying out flooded homes. That’s because of higher home values and thus higher repetitive losses. However, by focusing on this one issue, and ignoring the big picture of Flood Control construction spending, these groups distort the true picture of where flood mitigation dollars actually go.

Precinct 1 is 76% African-American and Hispanic

Rodney Ellis’ Precinct 1 website contains a description of the ethnic composition of his constituents. “With approximately 1.1 million residents, Harris County … Precinct One’s multi-racial, multi-ethnic population is roughly 39 percent African American, 37 percent Latino, 18 percent Anglo, 5 percent Asian and 1 percent other,” it says.

Large Disparities in Construction Spending Favor Precinct 1

Yet according to historical data on construction spending obtained from Harris County Flood Control District through the Freedom of Information Act…

In the last 21 years, Precinct 1 has received at least four to five times more construction dollars from Harris County Flood Control than Precinct 4 which contains Kingwood.

In fact, Precinct One received the single largest construction project in the history of Harris County Flood Control. The excavation of the Kuykendahl and Glen Forest Stormwater Detention Basins cost $59,840,117.41. In contrast, during the last 21-years, the entire San Jacinto River Watershed (the largest in the county) received only $3,345,976.28 in construction funds – one-eighteenth of what that Precinct 1 detention basin project cost!

The money spent on the San Jacinto also represented just one half of one percent of the $663,894,766.38 spent on all construction by the Flood Control District during that 21-year period.

Rodney Ellis’ Precinct 1 is bright green area in center of picture. Black dots represent maintenance projects; red dots represent capital (construction) projects. Note that almost all of the currently active capital improvement projects fall within Precinct 1.

In contrast, the Brays and Sims Bayous, both of which run through Commissioner Ellis’ district, received almost 100 times that amount. The $330 million spent on those two watersheds alone represented virtually HALF of the entire $663.9 million Flood Control District construction expenses in the last 21 years!

Lopsided Distribution of Flood Mitigation Money

In fairness, note that those watersheds do not lie entirely within Precinct 1. However, Precinct 1 also contains parts of Greens Bayou, White Oak Bayou, Halls Bayou, Hunting Bayou, Buffalo Bayou and Clear Creek (see map above). If you add in even a small portion of $229.4 million spent on those watersheds, the Precinct 1 construction numbers become even more lopsided.

  • Greens received $74.3 million
  • White Oak received $47.8 million
  • Halls received $22.3 million
  • Hunting received $23.7 million
  • Buffalo received $44.3 million
  • Clear Creek received $17 million.

Meanwhile, Kingwood received $0 construction dollars but suffered more than a billion dollars worth of damage during Harvey. Yet Mr. Ellis and his friends imply we hog flood mitigation dollars from poor people. THEY demand EQUITY! It’s time someone called this what it is – BS.

Of the $586 million spent by Flood Control on projects entirely within a single precinct (i.e., projects that did not bridge two or more precincts), Precinct 1 received 47% of all Flood Control District construction spending. Here’s how it breaks down.

Actual Construction Spending by Precinct since 1998

Between 1998 and 2019, Precinct 1 received 47% of all Flood Control District construction funds spent on projects entirely within each precinct. These percentages do NOT include spending on projects that cross districts.
Precinct 1$275,835,964
Precinct 2$103,529,679
Precinct 3$143,873,825
Precinct 4$62,427,867

Precinct Discrimination Disguised as “Equity”?

Precincts are supposed to be roughly equal in population. Yet these figures are so lopsided, one could argue that Mr. Ellis and his friends are deliberately crying discrimination to get a larger share of the pie at the expense of areas like Kingwood. But it’s more complicated than that; Precinct 1 is also taking money from LMI neighborhoods in other precincts.

Look at the distribution of LMI neighborhoods throughout Harris County in the map below. It’s based on five years of recent HUD data. You can see a broad, concentrated LMI band across northern and eastern Harris County.

For a high-resolution PDF of this LMI map, click here.

If anything, these numbers demonstrate a consistent pattern of geographic discrimination against residents of other precincts. Rodney Ellis’ Precinct 1 received 47% of construction dollars for flood control, leaving the other three precincts to divvy up the other half. Precinct 4 contains roughly one fourth of the population but received just 11% of construction dollars.

I’m not suggesting that the Precinct 1 projects were not needed or that the money was not spent wisely. I am suggesting that Precinct 1 LMI residents should not paint Kingwood as a villain. To do so is intellectually dishonest. We are not taking construction dollars from LMI neighborhoods. The County’s own data shows the opposite.

Precinct 1 is taking dollars from affluent and LMI neighborhoods alike.

I will cover other aspects of this story in upcoming posts. In the meantime, County Commissioners vote today on approving the vendor for the Kingwood Area Drainage Assessment. See item 2-B-5 on page 9. The approval of the study caused the equity flap at the last meeting. Let’s hope it doesn’t cause another one in this meeting. After all, the Flood Bond was sold to citizens as a tool to correct problems based on need, not income.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/25/2019

665 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Mercer Botanic Gardens After Harvey: Still One of the Gems of Harris County

Mercer Botanic Gardens has always been a work in progress…perhaps a little more so since Hurricane Harvey. The Harris County Precinct 4 Park – known for its ever-changing natural color, idyllic walkways, and dazzling displays of native plants – took it on the chin during Harvey. The flood devastated plantings and caused some of the worst damage in Mercer’s history. Floodwaters up to eight feet high ravaged paths, buildings, and gardens. They downed trees, ripped beds out by the roots, and buried  everything under layers of  mud.

Downed Tree after Harvey

Flooded Meeting Room

Ruined Beds

Back, Bigger, Better

The Botanic Gardens – a favorite of gardeners, seniors, and parents with small children– offers a civilized version of nature, relaxing strolls while holding hands, quiet contemplation, a place to learn, and a place to forget about all the stresses of modern life.

Now, under the leadership of Jack Cagle, Harris County Precinct 4 commissioner, it’s becoming that again…with some major improvements that will help it better survive future floods. The county and volunteers have spent much of the last year rebuilding, replanting, restoring, and even relocating parts of the facility.


Plans to relocate parts of the gardens began after the Tax Day Flood damaged areas of Mercer closest to Cypress Creek. The devastation highlighted the need for additional acreage on higher ground. Soon after, The Mercer Society, the nonprofit providing philanthropic support to Mercer, launched the Rebuild Mercer Campaign with a goal of purchasing 34 additional acres. Much of that land had already been purchased when Harvey hit, necessitating even more changes.

By Christmas last year, the Mercer Society (TMS) relocated their Gift and Plant Shoppe to 400 Main Street in Old Town Spring. Filled with botanic treasures, holiday gifts, and an assortment of plants, The Gift Shoppe is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

By March of this year, the Gardens had officially reopened.

In September, more than 100 veterans with The Mission Continues and 17 CarMax employees volunteered to install sod and prepare raised beds throughout the Creekside Ramble and parts of Storey Lake.

Volunteers sod Creekside Ramble

Part of Mercer’s new west side.

Construction of a new library will begin in 2019. And 4.5 acres of additional gardens could be open by Spring.

Cypress swamp on Mercer’s new west side

Where to Find Mercer

Located at 22306 Aldine Westfield Road, just a few blocks north of the airport and 1960, the Botanic Gardens are a 15 to 20 minute drive from Humble and Kingwood.

You and your family may find some of these upcoming events interesting.

Mercer Winter-Spring 2019 Programs


Children’s Winter Camp. Wednesday, Jan. 2 through Friday, Jan. 4 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Children can kick off the new year with lessons in healthy cooking at Mercer’s Winter Camp. Following the Learn! Grow! Eat! & Go! Junior Master Gardener curriculum, children will use the Charlie Cart Project mobile kitchen to practice cooking techniques encouraging healthy eating. Children will also plant vegetables, taste fresh produce, and engage in fun, outdoor physical activities. Space is limited, and registration is required. $30 per child. Registration starts Monday, November 19. To register or to receive additional information, call Mercer Botanic Gardens at 713-274-4160.

Lunch Bunch: Palm Textures. Wednesday, Jan. 9 from noon to 2 p.m. Palms add texture to the landscape and make any garden feel like a tropical paradise. Cheyenne Griffin, Mercer Botanic Gardens horticulturist, will discuss these textures and how to protect palms from the cold. Participants should bring a lunch and dress for the weather. Lunch Bunch is a free program offered at Mercer’s East Side Gardens and is recommended for participants ages 12 and older. To register or to receive additional information, contact Mercer Botanic Gardens at 713-274-4160 or mercerbotanicgardens@hcp4.net.


Lunch Bunch: The Basics of Backyard and Small-Scale Composting. Wednesday, Feb. 13 from noon to 2 p.m. Experienced horticulturists and gardeners often tout compost as the black gold of the gardening world because of the wonders it can perform in the garden. John Ferguson, owner of Nature’s Way Resources, demonstrates how to produce compost for small and large properties, from the backyard to golf courses. All materials, including tools and equipment, is provided by Mercer. Participants should bring a lunch and dress for the weather. Lunch Bunch is a free program offered at Mercer’s East Side Gardens and is recommended for participants ages 12 and older. To register or to receive additional information, contact Mercer Botanic Gardens at 713-274-4160 or mercerbotanicgardens@hcp4.net.


Children’s Spring Camp. Monday, March 11 through Thursday, March 14 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Spring is a time for newness and change. During Mercer’s Spring Camp, children will explore and embrace foods and cooking techniques that encourage healthy eating habits. Mercer’s education staff will utilize the Learn! Grow! Eat! & Go! Junior Master Gardener curriculum and the Charlie Cart mobile kitchen during this unique children’s camp. Camp includes planting vegetables, tasting fresh produce, and engaging in fun, outdoor physical activities. Space is limited, and registration is required. $40 per child. Registration starts Monday, January 28. To register or to receive additional information, call Mercer Botanic Gardens at 713-274-4160.

March Mart Plant Sale. Friday, March 15 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday, March 16 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Shop a variety of hard-to-find plants during one of the Texas Gulf Coast region’s largest and most anticipated horticultural events beginning Friday, March 15 at 10 a.m., with early shopping for The Mercer Society Members (TMS) at 8 a.m. An invitation only reception and plant sale for TMS Supporting Members and higher begins Thursday, March 14 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. All-day express checkout is available for The Mercer Society members only. To receive additional information or to purchase your membership, call Mercer Botanic Gardens at 713-274-4160.

March Mart Training. Individual and group training will be conducted on an as needed basis. All volunteers are welcome to contact the Mercer volunteer coordinator at 713-274-4160 or mercerbotanicgardens@hcp4.net for any questions and additional information regarding March Mart assignments or shifts.

Lunch Bunch: Honeybees and Backyard Beekeeping. Wednesday, March 20 from noon to 2 p.m. Join Jerry Maxwell and Roger Nelson, members of the Montgomery County Beekeepers Association, as they discuss interesting facts and details about honeybees, the amazing role bees play in our environment, and the benefits of pure honey. Learn what it takes to start your own beekeeping adventure in your own backyard. Participants should bring a lunch and dress for the weather. Lunch Bunch is a free program offered at Mercer’s East Side Gardens and is recommended for participants ages 12 and older. To register or to receive additional information, contact Mercer Botanic Gardens at 713-274-4160 or mercerbotanicgardens@hcp4.net.


Lunch Bunch: The Incredible Edibles. Wednesday, April 10 from noon to 2 p.m. Join a casual conversation with Marilyn O’Connor, the Herb Lady, and discuss ways to incorporate herbs into your garden year-round. Enjoy hands-on, scratch-and-sniff fun while exploring the textures and fragrances of various herbs. Then, stroll the Herb Garden at Mercer for more inspiration! Participants should bring a lunch and dress for the weather. Lunch Bunch is a free program offered at Mercer’s East Side Gardens and is recommended for participants ages 12 and older. To register or to receive additional information, contact Mercer Botanic Gardens at 713-274-4160 or mercerbotanicgardens@hcp4.net.

Ongoing Events

North Side Greenhouse Team. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Join a plant committee and grow plants year-round for events and sales or help with various projects from construction to irrigation! Contact Mercer’s volunteer coordinator at 713-274-4160 or mercerbotanicgardens@hcp4.net.

Gardening. Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Seek out what’s blooming and learn about plant grooming, pruning, and weeding in the Pollinator and Conservation gardens. Wear closed-toe shoes, gloves, and hat, and bring sunscreen and water. Contact Mercer’s volunteer coordinator at 713-274-4160 or mercerbotanicgardens@hcp4.net.

Gardening. Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Take part in plant grooming, pruning, weeding, and mulching in the Prehistoric and Shade gardens. Wear closed-toe shoes, gloves, and hat, and bring sunscreen and water. Contact Mercer’s volunteer coordinator at 713-274-4160 or mercerbotanicgardens@hcp4.net.

Cooking Thyme. Select Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Explore fresh food with all five senses during the Cooking Thyme program at Mercer Botanic Gardens. Children will learn the connections between cooking and the plants that grow in the garden and on the farm. This free, hands-on opportunity allows children to prepare and taste foods and equips them with knowledge to make healthy food choices. Cooking Thyme classes for children in kindergarten through second grade are scheduled Feb. 6, March 6, and April 3. Classes for children in third grade through fifth grade are scheduled Jan. 16, Feb. 20, March 20, and April 17. Registration is required, and space is limited. To register or for more information, call Mercer Botanic Gardens at 713-274-4160.

Lunch Bunch. Second Wednesday of the month from noon to 2 p.m. Join fabulous speakers at these free presentations covering diverse topics. Participants should bring a lunch and dress for the weather. Lunch Bunch is a free program offered at Mercer’s East Side Gardens and is recommended for participants ages 12 and older. For more information, contact Mercer Botanic Gardens at 713-274-4160 or mercerbotanicgardens@hcp4.net.

Storytime in the Gardens. Every Monday at 10:30 a.m. In partnership with Harris County Public Library, Mercer presents a unique Storytime in the natural setting of Mercer for parents and children to enjoy together. Storytime garden locations may vary each week. Call 713-274-4160 to find out the location or to check for cancellations due to weather or holidays.

Mercer serves people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, sex, religion, national origin, or physical ability. Anyone seeking additional information or requiring special assistance to participate in any program should contact Mercer at 713-274-4160 or mercerbotanicgardens@hcp4.net. Visit Mercer online at www.hcp4.net/Community/Parks/Mercer.

Posted by Bob Rehak with help from Crystal Simmons

Photos Courtesy of Harris County Precinct 4

Beauty Courtesy of the Creator

455 Days since Hurricane Harvey


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