By Mary Alys Cherry
Like many Bay Area families and businesses, Hurricane Harvey was the biggest challenge Exploration Green faced in 2017.
That is the assessment of Exploration Green Conservancy Chairman Frank Weary, who explains that 2017 saw both significant progress and some challenges for Exploration Green – the nearly 200 acres of green space available for recreation and much-needed flood control.
Led by the Clear Lake City Water Authority and supported by numerous partners, the conservancy is creating a world-class flood detention system based on the analyses of experts in the field and a new green space in the heart of the Clear Lake, designed by conservancy professionals to shine like other beautiful new parks.
500 trees planted
“The excavation has essentially been completed for Section 1, and installation of the Hike and Bike Trail is nearing completion,” he said in his annual report, adding that “Over 500 trees have been planted, including over 150 trees on the habitat island. We still have over 600 additional trees, the remaining wetlands plants, and many shrubs left to plant — activities that will extend into early 2018.”
The biggest challenge for 2017, however, was Hurricane Harvey, he says.
“When the storm hit, the final excavation for the first section was 80% complete. Even with the limited capacity, the detention worked as designed. It delayed 100 million gallons of storm water, helping to lower the level of Horsepen Bayou during the critical days of the storm.
Many homes spared
“About 100-200 homes were spared by just this first incomplete detention area. Our hearts go out to those whose homes were flooded, and the storm has strengthened our resolve to move forward as quickly as possible with the remaining sections. From a construction standpoint, the dry-out of the area delayed construction about one month.
Weary says they feel “blessed by the many volunteers who spend time helping with the care and planting of our trees and wetlands plants.”
Volunteers also served on several committees assisting with communications, financial management, amenities planning and fund raising¸ he said. “Without these volunteers, our progress in providing amenities would be impossible. We hope to draw on these volunteers in early 2018 to help with the remaining plantings in Section 1 and to assist with the planning and execution for the next phase of construction. Individual contributions in 2017 helped assure continued progress, and grants from Trees for Houston ($300,000), Texas Coastal Management Program ($100,000), and Texas Parks and Wildlife ($200,000) provided funds for completion of Section 1 and initiation of Section 2, he said.
“We also expect assistance from both the City of Houston and Harris County. Our grant application writing and corporate donation solicitations are proceeding well, and we hope to have announcements soon on both of these programs. Individual contributions are still needed for more trees, plants, irrigation and trails.”
Weary also said that recently launched programs will allow direct funding for the planting of trees and installation of park benches in memorial or tributes. These programs, he explained, provide for appropriate recognition plaques as desired by the donors.
Those wishing to participate in these programs should go to www.ExplorationGreen.org and click the Donate Now button for information on how to help. Additionally contributions are needed in other areas to move the project forward, Weary added.