Development Divide

Some Clear Lake Residents Oppose New Park Plan For Old Golf Course

One of the few things many people in a neighborhood can agree upon is parks. But in Clear Lake, the details on how to redevelop one has drawn strong opposition from some long-time residents.
The local water authority wants to turn a former golf course into a park that will also mitigate flooding. A group of homeowners want to keep it just the way it is.

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Volunteers with the Exploration Green Conservancy are growing young trees in a tree nursery on the park property.

The former Clear Lake Golf Club has been defunct for almost 10 years. Since then, residents have used the property to walk their dogs, jog, bike and feed the ducks in the small ponds here.

Since it acquired the property in 2011, the Clear Lake City Water Authority has worked on a master plan to use it to help reduce flooding in the area, double-serving as a public park.

Now the first dig is only a few months away.

John Branch, vice president of the water authority board, takes me on a walk on the part of the course to be Phase I of the development, in the Oakbrook subdivision.

“It was the first subdivision that was actually built here,” he says. “And so, it’s all designed around the golf course, and we thought that would be a great place to put in a real public amenity.”  

The $20 million 15-year master plan developed by the water authority and the Exploration Green Conservancy, envisions much of the 180-acre property to be filled with large storm water detention ponds and wetlands.

The rest will be hike-and-bike trails, trees and some athletic fields.

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The ditches running through the old golf course, as well as many trees, will make way to large detention ponds.

“What we’ll have will be areas that will be forested by design in the new design,” Frank Weary, chairman of the Conservancy, says. “And then areas that will be left green, (and) obviously areas that will be left wet for the lakes.”

“It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money,” says Carole Henning, who lives right next to the park property. She’s part of a group called Friends of the Old Golf Course and has long been advocating against the plan by the Clear Lake City Water Authority.

“It is a wholesale destruction of the natural environment, the local environment,” Henning says. “And three, it will not achieve the large-scale flood abatement as promised by the water authority.”

She says past flooding events have shown that storm water in many Clear Lake neighborhoods often doesn’t even make it to the ditches meant to provide flooding relief.

“They will not solve large-scale flood abatement by enlarging the ditches in Oakbrook West,” Henning says.

She says the water authority should make sure the existing drainage system in Clear Lake works instead of turning a large part of the old golf course into lakes.

That, she says, will destroy much of the trees and brush that bordering homeowners and trail users currently enjoy.

Kenneth Proctor, another member of the Friends of the Old Golf Course, has lived in his house bordering the park for the last 15 years and likes it the way it is now.

“I’m protected from seeing my neighbors’ house across the way with the natural hills we’ve got – well, the golf course hills,” he says. “And that’ll all be bulldozed out, of course.”

The group has proposed an alternative plan that would cost less and would take up about half as much space for flood water detention.

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Carole Henning (left) and Kenneth Proctor are two homeowners who oppose the Exploration Green project.

John Branch says that doesn’t meet the water authority’s requirements, which are stricter than for the rest of Harris County.

“We get a lot more rain every year than the average part of Harris County. We’re at a lower elevation,” he says.

So far, the Friends have been successful in delaying the project. The groundbreaking was supposed to happen in the spring of last year, but the group challenged a permit application by the water authority from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

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That permit is just for one component of the project and Branch is pretty confident that they’re going to get it.

And so the water authority is still going ahead with the excavation. It’s now planned to start in mid-fall.

Exploration Green supporters say when the project is done, there will be many more trees than before.

But critics say they are not willing to wait 30 years for the trees to grow up.

 

CLCWA Masterplan: 

 

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Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters and the Houston Press Club. Florian is a native of Germany. His studies...

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