ENHANCING OUR COMMUNITY AND NATURAL VALUES
Harris County is blessed with a system of interconnecting waterways that not only provide our primary stormwater drainage but also offer unparalleled opportunities for greenbelt recreation and open space areas. The establishment of trails along our waterways complements our mission and benefits our community in many ways.
Trails serve three of the most popular recreational activities in Texas - walking, bicycling, and running. They serve a greater number of people for less cost than just about any other recreational facility. A Texas trails study published by Texas Parks and Wildlife reported that nearly 70% of Texans walk for pleasure. This is the highest participation rate for any single recreational activity.
Expanded development of trails along the bayous in our community is an important part of our future, and the District is ready to be a partner.
We recognize the efficiency and inevitability of the multi-use of public lands. We welcome trails that meet our requirements and we offer our support.
THE ROLE OF TRAILS ALONG OUR CHANNEL SYSTEM
Since the formation of the District in 1937, public awareness of floodplain management has grown considerably. A consensus continues to grow that public lands should be used for more than a single purpose. This concept has helped develop an expanded view of our mission. As a principal steward of stream corridors, the District must balance its responsibilities for meeting its statutory mandate with various other public interests and protection of the environment. In order for the District to meet this difficult challenge, commitment from both the public and private sectors will be needed.
Many of our natural and man-made stream corridors are connectors that have always invited trails. Often, the intrigue of local forests and the offer of a chance sighting of some of our area's abundant wildlife arouse our curiosity. Urban dwellers, especially, seek out these streams for that special and unique experience to be found only along the banks of our creeks and bayous. The District benefits from the addition of trails, as well. Visibility and increased security are some of the immediate benefits, and over the long term, a savings in taxpayer dollars is realized. Since the sponsor of the local trail is responsible for its maintenance, the savings in the District's maintenance dollars can be allocated to other areas of need.
PARTNERSHIPS ARE THE KEY
Through successful partnerships, many miles of recreational trails have already been built on District rights of way. This experience has successfully demonstrated that trails are indeed compatible with creeks, bayous, and natural or man-made tributaries. Neighborhoods, schools, and parks have been connected by these trails, and an important form of transportation and recreation has been provided.
The District supports the further development of a trail system and offers the following guidelines to facilitate understanding of its role in implementing trails and how the process works.
POLICY CONCERNING RECREATIONAL TRAILS ON DISTRICT RIGHTS OF WAY
We at the District welcome trails on our rights of way. Most of our drainage easements have been granted to the District for flood damage reduction purposes. In these areas, the trail sponsor must obtain a trail easement from the fee owner of the property. Where the District holds the property in fee simple ownership, we will allow a trail to be built there under the following conditions:
- A sponsor must agree to construct, operate and maintain the proposed trail.
- The sponsor must, for the privilege of using District rights of way, agree to maintain (mow) the rights of way from top of bank to property line on the trail side of the bayou, creek or tributary channel. The sponsor must also agree to pick up litter.
- A formal agreement is necessary between the District and the sponsor. The sponsor could be a city, a utility district, a county precinct, a homeowners' association or another legal entity.
- The trails cannot interfere with the District's mission, and the sponsor will have the duty of repair or replacement of the trails, should they become damaged through use, flooding or Flood Control District maintenance operations.
- The public must be allowed access and use of these trails.
DESIGN CRITERIA AND MAINTENANCE REQUIREMENTS
Design criteria must be site-specific. Trails may not restrict water flow or access by the District's maintenance vehicles. Construction plans, including any amenities, such as benches, landscaping or water fountains, must be approved by the District prior to construction.
Repairs to the trail, mowing and litter pickup are responsibilities of the sponsor.