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Lake Houston State Park Transfer Proposed
AUSTIN, Texas — On Nov. 3, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission heard a proposal to transfer Lake Houston State Park from the state park system to the City of Houston. Commissioners directed Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff to move forward with formal negotiation with the city and to hold a Dec. 5 local meeting to get public input. The commission could approve the transfer at its Jan. 25 meeting.
Key factors behind the proposed transfer include low public visitation of the state park and a lack of state resources to fully realize public opportunity there, assurances through a legally binding agreement that there would be no change in the park’s current recreational character or natural resource and historical characteristics, and clear enthusiasm from the city and counties involved to assume management of the park.
“Because of the financial constraints facing the Texas state park system, and the fact that here we appear to have local partners who have the passion and resources to do a good job of resource stewardship and public service, this transfer looks positive for the park and its resources, for the public and for government,” said Robert L. Cook, TPWD executive director. “But, we will do our due diligence as we move forward to make sure this is the right thing to do.”
This park lies in three political jurisdictions: the City of Houston, Harris County and Montgomery County. Because the city has all of the park acreage in its ETJ, it is the only government entity eligible for transfer of the entire park.
“We're constantly trying to expand our available recreation opportunities, preserve our green space and improve the quality of life for citizens,” said Houston Mayor Bill White at an event to announce the proposed project locally on Oct. 28. “This park project shows what good can be accomplished when we all pull together to make it happen.”
The mayor emphasized that with the requested transfer, Houston would gain significant resources to serve its northern metropolitan area. A city news release said “rapid growth in north Harris and south Montgomery County areas begs for the preservation of Lake Houston State Park in the face of impending area development and state budget constraints.”
“Planning, preserving and partnering for today and tomorrow is what this effort is all about,” said Joe Turner, Houston Parks and Recreation Department director. “Twenty years from now Lake Houston State Park will be surrounded by residential development. What a marvel it will be to have an incredible 5,000-acre park right in the middle of such a development for everyone to enjoy.”
Lake Houston State Park contains 4,919.5 acres and is located near New Caney, thirty miles northwest of Houston. The state park was purchased from Champion Paper Company in 1981 and was opened for day-use in 1992; overnight use began in 1995.
The park is situated at the confluence of Caney Creek and the East Fork of the San Jacinto River and extends northward to FM 1485. The terrain consists of many bayous, lakes and canals. Most parts of the park are heavily wooded.
In the early 1980's, the state purchased 4,710 acres from Champion Realty Corporation. In 1990, 202 adjacent acres were bought from the San Jacinto Girl Scout Council, which had been home to Peach Creek Girl Scout Camp since 1955. The Girl Scout Camp and Horse Ranch lodges, camping areas, and trails have all been updated for state park use. Current activities include camping, nature study, bird watching, hiking, biking and horseback riding.
Fiscal year 2005 revenue generated by the state park was $41,695. Annual expenses include about $125,000 in personnel costs and $61,000 in operating expenses.
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