By Betsy Dolan
Canoe launches and bird watching platforms? Yes. Cafes and motor boats? Not so much.
That was some of the feedback given by Houston area residents who participated in an online survey regarding the Recreation Master Plan for a five-mile stretch of the Brazos River in Fort Bend County.
“What we discovered is that the people who took the survey are very concerned with protecting the natural ecosystem,” said Kathryn Nichols with the National Park Service. “They don’t want to see food vendors and a lot of commercial interference along the river.”
Fort Bend Green in conjunction with the National Park Service and other entities are working on a long range recreation plan for the Brazos River that could include a series of trails, fishing piers and canoe launches.
The public was invited to participate in an online survey between October 26 and January 11.
“The survey was valuable because it shows what is most important to the people, ” said Kim Icenhower, Fort Bend Green Community Liason. “It helps us back up our request for funding because we can say,’Look, this is what the people want.'”
The top five amenities from the survey results included: trails, canoe and kayak launches, restrooms, parking and trail connectivity.
A majority of the survey respondents said they would use the recreation area for exercise, hiking, nature study, biking and dog walking.
Less important to the survey takers were hunting access, food vendors and a motorboat ramp, said Nichols.
Mary Lockwood, Building Manager of The George Observatory at Brazos Bend State Park, has some of her own concerns.
“I’m worried about light and noise pollution. We have to maintain dark skies not only for the telescopes but for the wildlife,” Lockwood said. “I want to know if this recreation area will be open from dawn until dusk or 24/7 because it makes a difference.”
Lockwood was one of two dozen people participating in a public workshop at Brazos Bend State Park regarding the recreation plan.
Participants looked at large maps of the proposed area and marked areas where they would like to see specific amenities or places where private land might pose problems.
“The most negative feedback we have received is in regard to concerns over private land,” said Icenhower. “We have to be very mindful of private land owners especially when we start talking about connectivity. Access won’t be changed unless private land owners want it changed.”
The City of Sugar Land is participating in the Recreational Master Plan project. A $50 million bond referendum that will be on the November ballot would help pay for the second phase of a recreation area along the Brazos River and would tie into the larger plan.
Already, the City has acquired approximately 1,200 acres near the river and has developed about 200 acres.
Another public workshop on the recreation plan will be held Thursday, January 31 at the Sugar Land Recreation Center from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.