by Dorothy Puch Lillig

Imagine being able to ride a bike from the Spring Branch District to downtown Houston without hitting any major streets. That vision becoming a reality may be years off but the community is about to learn more about this exciting walking and biking trail project if they attend an open house on September 24.

The first phase of the Spring Branch Trail Project will be under construction by the end of this year or in early 2020 and will connect Blalock Road to Wirt Road within a CenterPoint easement, connecting Buffalo Creek Elementary, Edgewood Elementary, and Landrum Middle School with safe crossings and neighborhood access points.

Chelsea Young of TEI, the firm working on the effort led by the Spring Branch Management District in partnership with the Houston-Galveston Area Council, said the project presents opportunities for a continuous regional trail connecting the Addicks Reservoir through Spring Branch, to the White Oak Bayou along off-street CenterPoint easements and some on-street protected biking and walking locations where utilizing the easement is not feasible. These connections will reach beyond the Addicks Reservoir and White Oak Bayou into the Energy Corridor and into downtown via the White Oak Bayou trail.

On September 24 interested community members will get a chance to see the draft trail alignment, connecting Phase 1 of the Spring Branch Trail with the existing Emnora Lane Hike and Bike trail to area schools, neighborhoods and other Spring Branch destinations.

Also at the meeting, an overview will be presented on feasibility, safety, preliminary cost estimates, and timing considerations for future implementation.

Did we mention there will be free food and refreshments? The public meeting is an open house style family-friendly event, where participants can learn more about the proposed trail alignment as well as ask questions and provide feedback.

The September meeting will focus solely on Phase 1 of the trail, Young said. The other segments of the trail are being determined during the study process.

Over several months, planners gave the community a chance to give their input on the project via an online mapping system. They were interested in whether there are any north/south corridors they should consider in making walking, biking and transit connections to the proposed trail, as well as wanted help identifying any barriers to accessing the trail.

The Draft Spring Branch Trial Study Report, which takes into account all the community input, will be out by November of this year at SBMD.org to view, ask questions, and provide feedback before it is finalized by the end of this year.

The Spring Branch Trail is an extension of the Bayou Greenways 2020 project providing access to more than 3,000 acres of greenspace along our area bayous and connecting a 150-mile network of hike-and-bike trails. The Spring Branch Trail is a “Beyond the Bayous” project, creating connections to areas that are not along bayous.

The Spring Branch Trail Phase 1 and the Trail Study are among “7 Projects to Follow” in the booming Spring Branch District. The others include: a pilot to test the concept of converting Long Point Road’s existing four thru-lanes (two in each direction) to three lanes (one in each direction, with a continuous center left-turn lane); the Long Point Road Art Program, which will bring curated sculptures to the District; and Gessner Road drainage and beautification improvements.

Also in the plans are improvements to Haden Park. Preliminary design has been completed for this existing 13-acre park located at the northeast corner of Long Point and Witte Road. The project will include major improvements, especially to the undeveloped southern portion of the park along Long Point proposed as a “community park.” Plans for this area include a small and large dog park, event lawn and stage, off-street parking, restrooms, a community garden, tennis courts and other amenities. Funding is now being raised for Haden Park Phase 1, said Michael Robinson of SWA Group, who is working with the Spring Branch Management District on this project.

Read more about “7 Projects to Follow”: https://sbmd.org/7projectstofollow/, and don’t forget to attend the public meeting from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on September 24 at The Branch, 7710 Long Point Road, 77092, with a presentation by the Study Team starting at 7:00 p.m.