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Sugar Land revamping parks, recreation plan

By Theresa D. McClellan
For the Fort Bend Star

Grace Harper listens to Sugar Land staff explain the process of the open house on Parks and Recreation.

Grace Harper listens to Sugar Land staff explain the process of the open house on Parks and Recreation.

People take their play seriously in Sugar Land.

That’s why authorities held a public meeting to update the city’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan on Aug. 17 at City Hall.

Don’t worry if you couldn’t make the meeting. The city is providing multiple opportunities to get public input on the city’s vision for recreation opportunities including an “online town hall” and survey which can be accessed at

Some of the ideas offered up could wind up a reality by next year.

The city currently has many opportunities to unwind in nature or indoors including 27 parks, 45 sports fields, a canoe launch, a skate park, disc golf, a dog park, mountain bike trail and a senior center.

These were developed by previous planning sessions. The request for input attracted several senior baseball players from Harris County.

(Photos by Theresa D. McClellan) John See, 85, plays shortstop and wants more ball fields in Sugar Land.

(Photos by Theresa D. McClellan)
John See, 85, plays shortstop and wants more ball fields in Sugar Land.

“We have over 350 seniors in the Harris County Senior Softball League who are 50 and over. We’re hoping for more fields,” said Rick Hyatt, past director of the league.

As he spoke, seniors peered at the boards filling the hallways including 85-year-old John Dee who plays shortstop in the national division and wants to make sure there are more fields available.

“We just like to play,” said the spry, award-winning senior.

Brian Benefiel, president of the Sugar Land Girls Softball Association, wants to see more fields.

“People don’t realize how much of a moneymaker softball is for the City of Sugar Land and just by adding two fields they could double that,” said Benefiel.

The gathering of ideas can be a lengthy process, but by January 2017 the city will prioritize and create a 10-year action plan.

“We have a highly engaged citizenry with high expectations for quality. We want to capture the vision for the future,” said Matt Bucchin, one of the consultants gathering information for the project with Halff Associates.

They have already received some input. “Ensuring the parks are universally accessible; not necessarily ADA, but accessible to more than the traditional mom with child. How can we get more active adult users in the park by such things as increasing technology?” Bucchin said one resident asked.

A look at the 2005 parks plan, that was reviewed in 2015, shows that 90 percent of the projects have been completed, designed or included in the current capital improvement budget, said John Chesser, Director of Parks and Recreation.

As part of its comprehensive plan the city wants to make Brazos River Park as a “regional destination” with water-based activities on the river and lakes, hike and bike trails, innovative unique venues and activities.

There have been some key successes since the last plan, those include the renovation and expansion for seniors at the T.E. Harman Center, the Eldridge Park Trail extension, the universally accessible playground at First Colony Park and the Imperial Park Trail.

Some people have already answered the online survey, stating they want more pool space or a “tournament sized” cricket space. One person wrote, “Yes. Please build a tournament caliber disc golf course on the land. There are many benefits from preserving much of the natural vegetation to making sure the land is well maintained and free of vandalism.”

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