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In The News2018-09-11T17:11:49+00:00

New Recreational Resources, Amenities Planned for Katy Area Parks

https://communityimpact.com/houston/katy/development-construction/2018/05/24/new-recreational-resources-amenities-planned-for-katy-area-parks/

By R. Hans Miller | May 24, 2018

Improvements to parks and recreation projects are in the works in the Katy area for the next two years, said city and county officials.

Harris County Precinct 3 opened John Paul’s Landing on April 23, the same day Katy City Council unanimously approved its Downtown Plaza project. Fort Bend and Harris counties and Katy are improving parks with fishing opportunities, expanded walking trails, boardwalks and education centers. Both Harris County and city of Katy officials said adding flood mitigation to green spaces, such as John Paul’s Landing Park is important.

Commissioner Steve Radack of Harris County Precinct 3 said parks that are coming to the Katy area and those being expanded are invaluable to the community, especially children. He said it is important for Katy residents to have green spaces to go to and bond with neighbors and be active.

“The assets of parks and getting families out together—getting them physically active, you name it—it’s the way to travel, particularly in the climate we live in,” Radack said.

A new fishing hole

Harris County has opened John Paul’s Landing Park. The park is named after former Pope John Paul II, Radack said.

After 17 years of development, Harris County Precinct 3 opened the park on April 23, Radack said. The 865-acre park lies between Katy and Cypress.

The park prominently features a fishing lake, Radack said. It also features fish cleaning stations, an outdoor gym and playgrounds.

Radack said he sees the park as a model to be duplicated. While development has been slow, he said, the park’s lake was excavated cost-effectively using agreements with developers. Builders removed dirt from the site for fill soil. Radack estimated tens of millions of dollars have been saved as a result. He compared the park’s cost to that of Discovery Green, which cost $85 million.

“We’re not anywhere near that,” Radack said. “We won’t ever get to that because we’re getting so much of this done by developers taking soil off.”

The county paid $1.1 million dollars for the property in 2001 and more than $11 million on park amenities since then, Radack said. Funding was supplemented by $1 million from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

Katy Prairie Conservancy Vice President Elisa Donovan said the organization, which promotes preservation of prairies around Katy, is pleased the park is already attracting wildlife.

“The Katy Prairie has been designated a globally important bird-watching area by [the National Audubon Society], so if John Paul’s Landing is doing more to protect and enhance our natural areas for migrating birds, that’s great,” Donovan said.

Donovan said the conservancy hopes park development will focus on preserving the environment and is encouraged by added interest in nature programs nearby.

Development for the park is not yet complete, Radack said. Future development will include expansion of the fishing lake, which also provides limited flood mitigation in the area.

“It’s what we call a wet-bottom lake; water’s going to stay in it, but it’ll be at a level where it can receive more water,” Radack said.

An environmental education center will be added to the park, Radack said. Radack said the center will host environmental education classes.

Donovan said the conservancy is excited about any addition to environmental education in the Katy community.

“What we tried to do was make it as best as we could, totally and completely family-oriented. Hopefully, we’ve achieved that,” Radack said.

Preserving heritage

The city of Katy approved a $5 million project to revitalize the city’s Old Katy District square in April. The city will use $1.5 million in hotel occupancy tax funds, $500,000 in insurance funds from damage to the old city administration building and $3 million in bonds approved by voters in 2000 to pay for the project.

Groundbreaking for the project will occur in June or July.

Kayce Reina, Katy’s director of tourism, marketing and public relations, said the project will create a place residents can celebrate Katy’s heritage.

“When the city was initially founded, that was the gathering place for the people of Katy,” Reina said. “It’s extremely important to us to go back to our heritage to recreate a gathering place for our city.”

Most of the old city office building on Avenue C will be removed and the remainder remodeled. The City Annex on Second Street will also be remodeled. An outdoor museum under the water tower will show Katy’s history.

During an April 18 presentation to the city’s Convention and Tourism Bureau about the project, Reina and City Administrator Byron Hebert emphasized this is just the first phase for the plaza. Water and electrical lines will be installed for future improvements, such as lighting, an outdoor stage and covered walkway.

Hebert said that funding from hotels throughout the city could help fund future improvements to the plaza. This includes new hotels coming into the Katy Boardwalk project being developed just south of Katy Mills Mall.

“[The first phase] is going to take a year. In that year’s time, depending on how good these hotels do, we might be in a situation where we can go in and do another part of it,” Hebert said.

Reina said the city was happy to to preserve the City Annex building, which began as Katy’s first fire station.

“That’s why we wanted to keep that building,” Reina said. “It’s because we want to keep the integrity of the history that comes with it.”

The first phase of the plaza should be complete in late 2019, Reina said.

Upcoming improvements

Officials are improving parks throughout the Katy area. Improvements will add recreation functionality to drainage features as well.

The city is developing land north of the Katy Dog Park at 5418 Franz Road. The land is being excavated as a water-detention pond. However, Reina said the city is considering a walking path around the detention pond, a butterfly refuge or bird-watching space with planted trees to add functionality. Initial development should be done in June, Hebert said.

“We really are trying to be strategic in the areas that we have a space,” Reina said. “So even if it serves as detention, we’re adding components to make it a park the majority of the time to benefit our residents.”

Fort Bend County has completed trail upgrades throughout its parks and recently installed new bathrooms in them, Parks and Fairground Director Michel Davis said. Future improvements include adding a trail around the new lakes at Jones Creek Ranch Park, just south of Fulshear on FM 359. The trail will include fishing piers, he said.

Barry Kaplan, Interstate Municipal Utility District president, said the MUD will add features to Rick Rice Park to increase security and functionality. Power lines near CrossPoint Community Church will be buried this year.

Lowering the power lines will allow continued development of Francesca’s Garden, a display within the park of native plants. Night vision security cameras and a security office building will be installed by 2020. Francesca’s Garden should be completed by 2022, he said.

“We’re just really proud of it, and we hope to get everything done in the next four or five years,” Kaplan said.

Radack said creating green spaces for families to enjoy is important.

“There are so many more parks that need to be built and as long as I’m around, I’m going to keep going,” Radack said.

September 11th, 2018

Rick Rice Park: A Great Community Asset

From Nottingham Country’s August 2017 Newsletter

Did you know that when the weather is good that as many as 4,200 people visit Rick Rice Park each month? That’s more than 100 a day – a pretty impressive number.

If you aren’t familiar with the park, we encourage you to go see it. It is located behind CrossPoint Community Church on Westgreen. You can access it via the church’s parking lot or by riding or hiking the Mason Creek trail that connects with it. The park was years in the making and had its grand opening in June of 2009.

The park is an absolutely gorgeous 7-acre green space that features a central lake with a fountain that is surrounded by a walking trail. There is educational signage, inspirational artwork, a Veterans Memorial Plaza that honors all five branches of the United States military and a scenic overlook that is dedicated to CanCare, a non-profit cancer support network.

The story behind how the parking to be is pretty exceptional to you. The park is the brainchild of the interstate municipal utility District, which is a commercial MUD that represents the area from I – 10 to Kingsland and from West Green to Mason. The MUD is governed by a very small board of incredibly dedicated folks who have put in countless hours over many years to bring the party to fruition. (As an aside, board members are essentially volunteers, they are paid and stipend every time they meet, but it is paltry sum.)

“It truly is a labor of love,” said Interstate MUD Board President Barry Kaplan. “we are often asked why we would build a park at all. The answer is how often do you get a chance to do something extraordinary? People often don’t understand what a park can do for a community.”

Indeed, a park offers many benefits to the surrounding neighborhoods. It offers a respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It gets people outdoors, thereby bringing neighbors and strangers together. It also makes the community a more desirable place to live, which increases home values.

Kaplan  loves to go to the park and ask visitors about their experiences and see if they have suggestions for improvement. One of the park designers, Tara Klein of Four & One Landscape Architecture, does the same and one day spoke to a woman who had recently been diagnosed with cancer. She said she felt God had sent her there, as she took great comfort from the supportive quotes in the CanCare overlook.

In order for a park to continue to impact its neighbors in positive ways, it has to be managed correctly in terms of both maintenance and security. The MUD takes both jobs very seriously. It has hired a top of the line firm, Terry’s Landscape & Design, to handle park maintenance. The walkways are pressure washed every month; plants are replaced on a regular schedule; flags are replaced every quarter and graffiti is removed within 24 hours of the offense.

In terms of security, the park is patrolled regularly by off-duty HPD officers who routinely return wallets and keys to park patrons. Some folks are so grateful that they return with a plate of cookies.

The MUD also earns high marks for its willingness to work with other agencies. The Interstate MUD has financed the majority of the park, but some projects have been jointly funded in cooperation with our MUD, which is the Mason Creek MUD and Steve Radack, commissioner of Harris County Precinct 3. It should also be noted that Interstate MUD has a great relationship with Crosspoint Community Church.

It is truly heartening to see industry leaders he works so tirelessly on a project that benefits our community in so many ways. “We really are just a group of normal guys; we are not special,” Kaplan says. “We’ve made mistakes and we’ve learned a lot. This park is very special to us and for some of us it will be our legacy.”

Check out Francesca’s Garden
Even regular park visitors may not be aware of Francesca‘s Garden, which is tucked in just behind the Mann Eye Institute. It’s 2.5 acres feature lush landscaping, a tiny hill (perfect for toddlers to roll) and a small pavilion that could be used for events such as weddings and concerts. One day, the MUD plans to build out an amenity pond adjacent to the garden.

The garden is available to the public on a first come, first serve basis. No reservations are required.

Cool Park Facts

  1. The Texas Water Foundation gave the park the 2015 Blue Legacy Award for its water conservation efforts. A centrally controlled irrigation system saved 2.81 million  gallons of water in 2015 vs. the prior year.
  2. The LED lights on the bridge can change color. For example, they were blue for Taylor High School‘s Homecoming weekend.
  3. The park is organic fertilizer and pesticide.
  4. The park was named for Houston native Rick Rice, who spent decades as a park advocate, particularly in West Houston.
  5. The alligator was not removed by park staff. It is believed he found a new home after a flooding event.

July 26th, 2018

Why Parks Matter

People have asked us, “Why did you build a pedestrian park in Katy, Texas?” We were told, “A pedestrian park in Katy, Texas–nobody will want to go there.” They were wrong. Our off-duty HPD peace officers count park visitors. We know that on the average, about 2,000 people visit Rick Rice Park and Francesca’s Garden each month.

The reason we built it is because parks matter. While some well-meaning park advocates try to quantify the fiscal benefits, parks matter for non-quantifiable reasons. They provide a safe place for children to play, for adults to sit, exercise or just talk. They provide a place for community activities where people come together. They provide a place for young and old who want to enjoy the beauty of nature. Parks are flexible enough to fit the needs of everyone.

Parks bring people together as a community. Go to Eleanor Tinsley Park on July 4th. Walk through Hermann Park on a weekend. Parks encourage people mixing. Parks sooth the uneasy and calm the agitated. Parks are a refuge from daily life. In congested cities like New York, parks are the “green lungs” of a city, refreshing both visitors and non-visitors. Parks matter for so many different reasons. That is why we built a pedestrian park in Katy, Texas.

As a child growing up in New York City, my mother took me as a young boy to Forest Park in Queens and I never forgot the freedom to jump, run and generally make a nuisance of myself. When we moved to another part of Queens, Alley Pond Park and Crocheron Park became second homes. Going to college in Buffalo, New York, home to a comprehensive but decaying Olmsted designed park system; I saw the faded glories of a city in its decline.

Many years ago when I came to Houston, the first thing that I did was drive down Memorial Drive to find Memorial Park. Given the fact that I only had one park model in my head, I was looking for an urban park like those designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. When I wound up downtown, I realized that I had gone past the park. I had looked for a different kind of park and missed what was right in front of me. Years later as a runner, I realized that parks come in all shapes and sizes. Memorial Park was just different from those in my past.

On behalf of the Board of Directors of Interstate Municipal Utility District, I am pleased that we have had the opportunity to provide the growing Katy community with Rick Rice Park. Watch as we start the next phase of Francesca’s Garden in 2017.

Please Join us at Rick Rice Park whether with family or friends or just by yourself. It is there for you because parks really do matter.

March 5th, 2017

Rick Rice

We name streets, parks, bridges and other civic infrastructure after people who have contributed to our community. But too often we do not know who they were. Maybe it was because they lived years ago and their achievements have been shadowed by the mists of time.

Maybe they worked in the background, avoiding the limelight and civic recognition so their achievements go unnoticed. Rick Rice was this type of person. A native Texan who moved here when he was 7, Rick was both a Cougar and an Aggie. He was also a man who who wanted to make his hometown a better place. And, he did.

A member of the Interstate Board for many years before he accepted a role on the Houston City Planning Commission, Rick earned an M.A. in Urban and Regional Planning from Texas A&M. He was also a developer who helped build Houston’s west side and was known for the quality of his projects and his dedication to excellence.

When the Board of Interstate Municipal Utility District began working on the park that would eventually bear his name, Rick shared his expertise and knowledge. It was invaluable. He knew that cooperation with other public entities could expand the reach and impact of the park. He also understood that the construction of sidewalks leading to the park and a County trail on the west side of Mason Creek would allow more pedestrians to safely reach the park without having to get into a car.

Following Rick’s guidance, underpasses were built under Kingsland Blvd and Westgreen, in cooperation with Commissioner Steve Radack of Harris County and Mason Creek MUD. The result is the County trail on the west side of the park that runs south into Mason Creek MUD along Mason Creek. The construction of that trail brought additional people to Rick Rice Park. Eventually the trail will run from Rick Rice Park to George Bush Park. As part of the partnership with the County, Interstate MUD maintains the trail within its boundaries.

Working with the County, Interstate MUD also built sidewalks on the north and south sides of Kingsland. Now students attending Taylor High School and commuters using the Metro Park and Ride lot no longer have to walk in the street or deal with muddy dirt paths. The number of park users jumped with the construction of the sidewalks and trail.

Rick emphasized the need to maintain the park and trails so people would always feel safe. He said that no matter how beautiful a park was designed, it would only be a success if it was full of people. Rick knew that a safe park was a well maintained park. The detailed and rigorous maintenance program for Rick Rice Park is the result of his vision.

In recognition of Rick’s hard work and lifelong commitment to parks and the beautification of Houston, on April 11, 2006, the Board of Interstate Municipal Utility District unanimously voted to name the new park Rick Rice Park.

Not only was Rick instrumental in the creation of the park, he was a community leader. An Eagle Scout as a youth, he guided a number of young men to their Eagle Scout awards as an assistant scoutmaster. He served on the Houston Planning Commission, as well as on the Harris County Flood Control Task Force and the Houston Real Estate Council. He was also the former chair of the West Houston Association and the Greater Houston Builders Association Developers Council.

Rick was more than a member of civic groups—he was a leader who strongly believed in Houston, its future and its people. He also believed that because Houston was not blessed with natural geographical features, it was imperative for its residents to create them—to maximize what we had and use them to make our community a better place to live and play.

Rick Rice passed away on November 30, 2016. May his memory be a blessing and may Rick Rice Park be his legacy.

March 5th, 2017

Katy doctors walk with patients to encourage healthy living

On Saturday, while most doctors were in medical offices or taking an off-day, Cindy Anthis, medical director at Katy’s Christ Clinic, exercised alongside patients in an effort to live out what she teaches.

“I think that if I’m telling my patients to exercise,” Anthis said, “then I better be out there exercising, too.”

Anthis is the lead physician of the clinic’s monthly “Walk with a Doc,” a global program where doctors walk with their patients in order to promote healthy living styles. The Christ Clinic is one of several Houston-area medical centers that participate in the program, which combines walks with healthy living messages and food.

“A lot of our patients have chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure,” Anthis said. “A lot of time we are spinning our wheels with medicine if we don’t encourage them to exercise. A lot of them haven’t seen ways of exercise to be modeled.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that About 610,000 people die from heart disease in the United States every year.

Almost 10 percent of people in the U.S. have some level of diabetes, a disease which kills more than one million Americans per year, according to the American Diabetes Association. Being overweight can be a cause for high blood pressure and heart disease, as well as diabetes.

The clinic’s Walk with a Doc group meets every second Saturday of the month at Katy’s Rick Rice Park. Each event is sponsored by area churches such as Kingsland Baptist Church, Epiphany of the Lord and St. Peters United Methodist Church, which typically provide water and healthy snacks such as nuts and fruits.

Anywhere from a handful of people to more than 20 show to walk the park’s trail, Anthis said. At least one of the clinic’s physicians attends. Before every walk, Anthis teaches the group health and exercise tips.

The walking group typically includes a mix of people that can easily walk laps on the park’s trail, as well as those who struggle to get around. But the walk serves as a motivation for everyone there to exercise regularly, Anthis said.

A Columbus, Ohio doctor named David Sabgir began the program in 2005 after becoming discouraged by not seeing enough of his patients practicing healthy exercise routines. Since then, the program has spread worldwide. To find a location, visit http://walkwithadoc.org/.

The Christ Clinic began their Walk with a Doc more than one year ago, and there are several Houston-area health centers and private doctors who have joined the program, including in other suburban areas such as Fort Bend County.

The program “improves your heart health and your physical well-being and your bone structure,” said Benedict Ifedi, a physician at Physicians at Sugar Creek in Sugar Land, which participate in the program. “It helps increase comradery. People feel more encouraged when they have someone next to them pushing them.”

The Sugar Creek center holds walks every Wednesday beginning at 5:45 p.m. at its location along the Southwest Fwy in Sugar Land.

In March, the Christ Center plans to co-host a 5K color run with local nonprofits that include Clothed by Faith, Hope Impacts and The Ballard House. The event will serve as a fundraiser for the clinic, and Walk with a Doc participants are encouraged to attend, Anthis said.

For more information on the clinic’s Walk with a Doc, visit http://bit.ly/KatyDocWalk.

December 16th, 2016

Hike and bike park in Katy includes tribute to CanCare, Inc. and military veterans

You have likely seen huge holes dug into the ground next to major construction projects – they are storm drainage ditches and they are usually eyesores, but FOX 26 reporter Andrea Watkins shows that they can be a lot more.

September 12th, 2014