April 2021

Happy spring! The upcoming expansion of eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccines to all adults fills me with hope and optimism and propels us one step closer to normality. As COVID-19 vaccinations continue, your Precinct 4 Encore team members work diligently to help seniors through the registration process. Seniors who need assistance should contact Encore by phone Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 713-274-4050. With your help, we can limit the spread of COVID-19 and begin the next phase of our recovery. I encourage everyone to register for their vaccine today on the Harris County Public Health website.

As our ability to fight COVID-19 improves, Precinct 4 has resumed limited in-person events. I encourage you to check out Precinct 4’s new event registration tool online at www.hcp4.net/events. Browse and book your favorite parks, Encore, and TAP events in one convenient location. Visit us online to learn more about upcoming Precinct 4 senior bus trips, festivals, fishing trips, archery lessons, canoeing events, and other activities. 

Your Precinct 4 parks staff also remains committed to expanding our parks system. I’m excited to announce that Mercer Botanic Gardens began construction on Phase 1 of its master plan in early March. I encourage you to read more about Mercer’s expansion, planned amenities, and construction timeline in the issue below. This edition also contains news about our Legacy Trees Project, flood control updates, and upcoming events and activities. 

HCFCD and City of Houston Acquire Land
For Flood Damage Reduction Project 
A Montgomery County property once blamed for causing flooding in Kingwood may one day help do the opposite, thanks to its recent purchase by the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) and the City of Houston. 

HCFCD and the City of Houston announced the property's purchase in early March after more than a year of negotiations. 

The property, formerly owned by Figure Four Partners, Ltd., was intended to become a housing development. However, repeated floods in a downstream community caused City of Houston officials to halt development. An investigation in 2019 confirmed that the Woodridge Village development contributed to flooding in the Elm Grove subdivision in May and September 2019.

The results prompted the City of Houston and HCFCD to purchase the property for approximately $14 million in early March. The City of Houston contributed $3.8 million to buy 73 of the 267.35 acres for a wastewater treatment plant. HCFCD paid the remaining amount using money from the 2018 bond program.

The next step is for Harris County engineers to analyze the property and develop a plan to maximize stormwater detention volume, evaluate the project's benefit to the community, and determine project cost and funding methods. HCFCD will also schedule community engagement meetings to gather feedback from residents and present alternatives.

Photo Courtesy of ReduceFlooding.com.
Mercer Botanic Gardens Breaks Ground
On First Phase of Master Plan
Mercer Botanic Gardens broke ground last week to kick off the first phase of its plan to expand the gardens and make them more flood resilient in the wake of several disastrous floods recently.
Mercer approved its master plan, designed by Halff Associates Inc., in 2019, after buying more than 47 neighboring acres outside the special flood hazard area.
Phase 1 of the plan began March 8 and will take six months to complete. Improvements include building three greenhouses on higher ground to replace the Central Garden greenhouses. The extra elevation is expected to keep nursery plants safe from high water and provide a staging area for staff during disasters like Hurricane Harvey, which caused catastrophic damage at the botanic gardens.

Blast from the Past:
Harris County’s Seashell Roads
If you've ever wanted a glimpse into the past, look no further than Harris County's roadways. Hidden just below the surface is a maze of seashell roads that provide insight into our county's unique history.
In the early 20th century, workers harvested millions of cubic yards of shells from Galveston Bay and mixed them with concrete to use as roadbeds. Because of their shipping cost, seashells were only economical to use in cities near the coast.
The practice was so common in Harris County that decomposing seashell roadways of the past skewed a 2010 Rice University study of Spring Creek and Buffalo Bayou's carbon dioxide content. When scientists calculated the age of the carbon dioxide in Spring Creek and Buffalo Bayou through radiocarbon dating, they found that Buffalo Bayou contained carbon dioxide that was nearly 5,000 years old. In contrast, Spring Creek, which ran near gravel roads in rural areas, showed evidence of a typical carbon dioxide cycle, a process that could be completed in as little as a few years.
The results puzzled scientists until they realized that parts of Harris County south of Spring Creek contained buried seashell roadbeds. Carrie Masiello, who co-wrote the study, explained in a 2010 Rice University article that acid rain dissolved the shells, leeching carbon dioxide into the groundwater and into Buffalo Bayou.
Although the discovery won't result in a Nobel Prize, it did provide lessons in economics, history, and science. And for the lifelong learners out there, that knowledge is priceless. 
Trails Along Toll Roads Could
Lead to More Trail Connections
A recent Commissioners Court decision to allow trail development on land owned by the Harris County Toll Road Authority could have far-reaching economic and recreational benefits for Precinct 4 residents. 
Precinct 4 Park Director Dennis Johnston said a trail under the Hardy Toll Road could connect thousands of homes in Spring to paved and natural surface trails in the Timber Lane community.

The route would run under a nearby overpass and connect multiple neighborhoods on the west side of the Hardy Toll Road to the Cypress Creek Hike & Bike Trail to the east. 
“I see this as an opportunity, especially where the Hardy Toll Road has cut existing neighborhoods in half,” said Johnston.
Johnston said the decision paves the way for a series of connector trails from The Woodlands to downtown Houston that could serve pedestrians, hikers, bikers, and Iron Man competitors. It could also bring economic benefits to the region by boosting hotel use and sales, he said. 
“A north-south trail corridor along the Hardy Toll Road would be an incredible amenity for all of Harris County,” he said. “Events like the Iron Man competition and many others would likely pay for themselves in the long run through hotel use and sales to local merchants and eateries that support these large events.”
Johnston says development is still a long way off, though. Harris County will first need to begin work on a trail master plan to identify possible connections. 
Precinct 4 Donates Historical Trees
Harris County Precinct 4’s Legacy Trees Project continued its mission of educating children about nature and history earlier this year by donating historical trees to Mahaffey and Link elementary schools in Klein and Spring ISDs. 
The trees were grown from acorns collected from the Century Tree, an ancient live oak featured in Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s Famous Trees of Texas. Dating to the early 1900s, the Century Tree grows on the Texas A&M campus in College Station. Countless marriage proposals and weddings have been held under its branches, and legend has it that lovers who walk under its canopy will remain together forever. 
To make the donation memorable for students, Laura Medick, an arborist with Precinct 4’s Legacy Trees Project, gave a tree planting demonstration, discussed the benefits of trees, and shared the tree’s history during a ceremony with Mahaffey Elementary students in late January. Earlier in the year, she planted a Century Tree at Link Elementary in honor of Justin Jones, a Link Elementary principal killed in a car accident. Although Link Elementary students could not gather for an in-person ceremony because of COVID-19, Precinct 4 shared a tree-planting video for students to view on their own.
Thanks to these donations, children at both elementary schools now have a unique link to Texas history and a living marker to measure the passing years. For more information on Precinct 4’s Legacy Trees Project, visit www.hcp4.net/legacytrees/

Winter Storm Uri Recovery
Last month’s winter storm killed more than a dozen Harris County residents and left a wake of destruction in its path, causing burst pipes and extended power outages during Harris County’s coldest week in decades. Throughout it all, Precinct 4 remained dedicated to serving you. Here’s how we responded before, during, and after the storm:
  • Added chat to the 300 bridges and surrounding roadways in Precinct 4 and recycled the remaining rock once the storm passed.
  • Cleared ice and snow from roadways around fire stations and hospitals during the storm to clear the way for emergency responders.
  • Worked call centers and provided 24-hour support for clearing roadways.
  • Delivered 8,000 gallons of water to HCA Tomball Hospital after the City of Tomball lost water during the storm.
  • Provided showers at Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve for residents who lost water.
  • Opened a debris drop-off site at 13928 Humble Road in Tomball for demolition material related to burst pipes.
  • Assisted the Harris County Office of Emergency Management by delivering 28 pallets of water and six pallets of MREs to those in need.  
  • Delivered water, disaster boxes, and food to seniors in distress for CrowdSource Rescue and coordinated a group of senior adult volunteers to prepare meals at Kids’ Meals.
  • Provided thousands of gallons of non-potable water to the public. 
  • Staffed warming centers at Octavia Fields Library and Barbara Bush Library.
View the Latest Issue
Our latest edition of Precinct4Update is now online! Explore the latest issue to learn about your community, park project updates, news, and much more. Like what you see? Sign up to receive the print edition.
Upcoming Events
Bunny Hop: “Eggs”travaganza Drive-Thru at Mangum-Howell Center
Join us for a drive-thru Easter celebration on Thursday, April 1, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Mangum-Howell Center. Hang your basket out the car window for the Easter Bunny to fill with prizes, crafts, games, and a treat. This event is open to children 4 or younger. Participants must stay in their cars and proceed along the driveway to receive a kit. Registration is required. Please call 281-591-7830 to register, as supplies are limited.
Easter Games at Jones Park
Enjoy bunny races, spoon races, and other traditional Easter games at the Redbud Hill Homestead on Saturday, April 3, from 10 a.m. to noon. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy. Ages 12 or younger. Reservations are required beginning Wednesday, March 24.
Virtual Police Memorial
Join Commissioner R. Jack Cagle and former congressman Ted Poe on Facebook for this annual memorial ceremony honoring fallen Texas law-enforcement officers on Monday, May 17, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tune into this virtual event to remember these brave men and women for their tireless dedication and sacrifice at www.facebook.com/HCPrecinct4. Call 713-274-4050 for more information.