Redefining Community Amenities
When Friendswood Development Company created the Clear Lake City Area master plan in the 1960s, people had a different notion of community amenities. The original Clear Lake City Area brochure touted amenities such as an “air-conditioned gymnasium, three swimming pools and community meeting rooms,” and “the Clear Lake Country Club golf course.”
No mention was made of stormwater management, other than “Drainage lines are buried.”
As Clear Lake became a desirable community in which to live, residential and commercial development increased. Periodic flooding, sometimes even from afternoon pop-up thunderstorms, increasingly became an issue. Having a golf course located in your neighborhood became less important to residents. The Clear Lake Golf Course fell into disrepair. The owners planned to sell it for even more commercial and residential development, which would have made flooding issues worse.
Seeking Community Input
What sets Exploration Green apart from other government projects, is the Clear Lake City Water Authority (CLCWA) actively sought community input through a series of town hall meetings before launching the project. Attendees of these town hall meetings formed subcommittees to address specific questions about the proposed project. These questions included: Should there be hike & bike trails? If so, from what materials should they be constructed and how wide? What type of landscaping is desirable, native species or other? What about practice fields for local little leagues? Should there be a dog park, and a community garden? Each of these subcommittees conducted their own research and presented recommendations at a later town hall meeting.
This active community engagement uniquely enabled the CLCWA to accomplish three things simultaneously: 1) create community resilience through large-scale stormwater detention project, 2) create a native habitat for local residents to enjoy near their homes, and 3) retrofit modern amenities such as hike and bike trail systems newer communities take for granted.
Re-integrating the Community
Exploration Green already draws the community to it. Residents and visitors can enjoy a quiet place for a walk, run, bike ride, or simply “enjoying the view.” The Exploration Green Conservancy also draws the community through birding (bird watching), yoga, and other planned events open to the community. And Exploration Green has been used by local groups for “fun runs” and other events.
The Exploration Green Conservancy is working with the Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner’s Office to connect the six miles of Exploration Green hike and bike trails to the Harris County hike and bike trail that runs behind Clear Lake High School, and thus the broader network of trails in southeast Harris County. This will ensure runners, walkers, bicyclists, and children can safely travel longer distances with minimal exposure to street traffic.
There is emerging evidence the home values in the original Clear Lake neighborhoods surrounding Exploration Green that had been steady or declining slightly, are now increasing and at a faster rate than other Clear Lake neighborhoods.