Twelve years ago, a grassroots group of residents sat down with a Houston developer to discuss the fate of a major greenbelt in suburban northwest Harris County.
When Vincent Kickerillo and Walt Mischer of V&W Partners purchased the land in mid-2005, residents feared the new owners would flatten a thriving wetland instrumental to the development of a connected park system along Cypress Creek.
Armed with little more bargaining power than facts and a vision, a group of concerned homeowners, MUDs, and environmentalists known as the HP Park Project Committee, met with the buyers to explain the significance of the land to the Cypress Creek Greenway Project, a proposed 40-mile trail system connecting parks along Cypress Creek.
The group settled on an agreement that benefitted everyone. V&W Partners would donate about 80 acres of parkland, worth an estimated $9 million, to Precinct 4 for a public park.
A New Park
On April 1, the park opened as the Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve, Precinct 4’s fifth anchor park along Cypress Creek.
“I intend to keep this park as natural as possible. It offers recreational opportunities, wildlife habitat preservation, quality of life improvements, as well as flood mitigation for the surrounding area,” said Commissioner R. Jack Cagle. “Eventually, this preserve will be an important destination along the greenway, which provides additional transportation options for residents and safer paths for bicyclists and hikers.”
The park features a 1.7-mile paved nature trail around a 40-acre lake, restrooms, showers, parking lots, and water recreational activities through Precinct 4’s Trails As Parks program. Fishing piers, a picnic pavilion, outdoor classroom, and an amphitheater are also planned. Once an existing building located near the property is renovated, Precinct 4 plans to add a director and onsite caretakers who will provide programming.
For Cypress Creek Greenway Project Chair Jim Robertson, the most exciting aspect of the preserve is yet to come.
Since founding the Cypress Creek Greenway Project in 2004, Robertson has made a goal of working with communities and government entities such as Precinct 4 to connect parks along Cypress Creek from west of Highway 290 eastward to the Spring Creek Greenway at Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center.
The Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve was one of his earliest victories.
“Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the opening is to see the results of many entities working together jointly over many years to preserve a wonderful area along Cypress Creek as part of the Cypress Creek Greenway,” said Robertson.
So far, Robertson said about 24 parks including county, municipal utility district, and developer parks from west of US 290 to Spring Creek have opened out of the 30 planned parks.
Of those, Precinct 4 has opened some of the five largest parks including Mercer Botanic Gardens, Collins Park, Meyer Park, and the 100 Acre Woods Preserve.
Once the greenway is complete, experts predict the region could see millions in economic and environmental benefits. A 2013 study commissioned by the Houston Parks Board found the Cypress Creek Greenway could provide $14-20 million in economic benefits such as vehicle cost savings, air quality improvement, carbon sequestration, ecosystem support, clean water, and property value increases.
“I hope that the creation of these parks will serve as a catalyst for the development of trail connectivity, not only between them along Cypress Creek within the Cypress Creek Greenway, but also into the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Robertson.
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Houston, Texas 77002