Movers & Shakers: John Branch

April 1st, 2019

Name: John Branch

Occupation:  Retired logistics manager; president of the Clear Lake City Water Authority

Hometown:  Overton, Texas

Current home: Clear Lake City

Family: Wife Patty, two sons and six grandchildren

My favorite writer is:  Tom Clancy

Someone I’d like to meet:  Wish I could have met Neil Armstrong

If I could switch places with someone for just one day, I’d choose:  An astronaut on the space station

My favorite performers are: George Strait and Garth Brooks

I like to spend my leisure time:  At Exploration Green

If I could travel any place, I’d go:  Back to Bavaria

My favorite meal is:  Lobster

As a youngster, I wanted to grow up to be:  A Texas Ranger

You’ll never catch me:  Not trying to make things better

The thing that bugs me the most is: People who do not give back to the community

My favorite movie is: The Scarlet and The Black; When the Game Stands Tall

Few people know:  I grew up on a ranch

Exploration Green draws big crowd for grand opening

June 1st, 2018

CLCWA Vice President Bob Savely, from left, along with John Jacobs of the Texas A&M Coastal Watershed Program, CLCWA President John Branch, Exploration Green Conservancy Chairman Frank Weary, Harris County Commissioner Jack Morman, State Rep. Dennis Paul, Jordan McGinty, representing Houston City Council Dave Martin, and CLCWA Director Gordon Johnson, officially open Exploration Green with a tree planting ceremony. Photo by Marianne Dyson.

By Mary Alys Cherry

An estimated 1,000 Bay Area residents were on hand to celebrate the long awaited grand opening of Exploration Green — the 200-acre green park developed at 16205 Diana Lane to save Clear Lake City homes and businesses from flooding during heavy rains.

As elected officials, community leaders, families and community groups gathered for the historic occasion, several who had worked on the project for a number of years — Clear Lake City Water Authority President John Branch and Vice President Bob Savely, Exploration Green Conservancy Chairman Frank Weary, Harris County Commissioner Jack Morman, State Rep. Dennis Paul, Jordan McGinty, representing Houston City Council Dave Martin, and CLCWA Director Gordon Johnson — officially opened Exploration Green with a tree planting ceremony.

“The grand opening was awesome!” said event organizer Doug Peterson, who has worked on the project for many months. “I personally heard literally dozens of enthusiastic compliments about the site and event – ‘This is a wonderful addition to Clear Lake area,’ and ‘This is revitalizing the neighborhoods and community.’ A long-term resident said, ‘this reminds me of how years ago Clear Lake people were more connected.’”

Exploration Green is being credited with preventing 100 million gallons of Harvey storm water from flooding Clear Lake City homes. Over 750 native trees have been planted at the eight-acre detention lake and habitat island that was formerly the Clear Lake Golf Course and Clear Lake Country Club. The new hike and bike trail – with benches for resting put in by Space Center Rotary members — will help everyone explore Clear Lake’s biggest new park.

Hundreds volunteered to make Exploration Green theirs, and after years of planning, 340,000 cubic yards of soil excavation, fighting Harvey’s stormwater, creating a habitat island and installing a beautiful trail, their dream became a reality with the grand opening Saturday, April 28.

Besides the ground breaking ceremony, other activities included the reading of a proclamation issued by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner declaring it Exploration Green Day, live music by local performers, “Grifters and Shills” and “School of Rock,” a Kid Zone, a “social” run, plant sale, fitness activities, kites, Houston Police Bike Patrol, NASA Virtual Reality and food trucks, plus organizations handing out flood control information, environmental tips and green guides.

Peterson said the community is invited to celebrate Clear Lake’s newest amenity with their family and friends and to explore their new green space along the hike and bike trail. “Exploration Green is a beautiful multiple purpose natural space where you can learn about natural habitats and flood control. It’s a seasonal solution for flooding issues and a year-round amenity for everyone’s enjoyment.”

For information about Exploration Green’s volunteer opportunities or contributions to the Exploration Green Conservancy, a 501(c)(3), visit www.ExplorationGreen.org or www.Facebook.com/ExplorationGreen.

Exploration Green protected from commercial development forever

January 5th, 2015

12-1 Clear Lake City WaterAfter nearly a decade of working to fulfill a vision of a Clear Lake public green space to alleviate flooding, foster nature conservation, clean run-off water and provide recreation opportunities, the Clear Lake City Water Authority has signed a Conservation Easement agreement with the Galveston Bay Foundation to conserve and protect the nearly 200 acres of the Exploration Green from commercial development in perpetuity. That means forever.

Working with Keep Green Spaces Green grassroots efforts, through it all, the CLCWA leadership has supported the interests of residents, worked with grassroots neighborhood groups and actively opposed proposals to build highly concentrated residential condos behind the homes ringing the old Clear Lake City golf course.

While some politicians and developers fought in court and even at the state house to open the area for commercial development, the CLCWA board kept their eyes on the prize no matter what obstacles were laid down in front of the initiative.

In 2005 Clear Lake residents discovered the plans to turn the golf course into a massive commercial development. The people rose up and engaged, some 4,000 signed a petition against the commercial development, and “Keep Green Spaces Green” signs were everywhere.

Organizations such as the Clear Lake Civic League and Clear Lake City Green Space Preservation Committee focused the grass roots organizing while CLCWA fought in court to condemn the property with the water authority arguing that more storm water detention was required. “Today we thank all those who worked to make to control flooding and make “green space green” in Clear Lake,” a spokesman said.

Working with the CLCWA today is a new non-profit organization, Exploration Green Conservancy, established to organize and create those parts of Exploration Green that are not flood control. With a board of local volunteers, the conservancy, like earlier town hall meetings and volunteer committees, provides an avenue for local residents to participate in planning, organizing, working with trees, trails and other projects, and maintaining the Green Space.

Other partners in addition to Galveston Bay Foundation include Trees For Houston, Texas Coastal Watershed Program, SWA Architecture and Lockwood, Andrews and Newnam; all key to the success of Exploration Green. The Clear Lake City Water Authority brought them together to create Clear Lake’s Exploration Green.

“We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to leaders of the Water Authority, especially Bob Savely and John Branch, who shepherded this along for many years,” EGC Chairman Frank Weary said. “Their vision and persistence are driven by what is best for CLCWA customers. Their creation of the Conservation Easement with Galveston Bay Foundation to protect and preserve the public green space in perpetuity is a remarkable milestone for the Clear Lake community.”

“We have been honored to work with the Clear Lake City Water Authority to establish Exploration Green. It is one of the most innovative projects we have been associated with,” John Jacob of the Texas A&M Texas Coastal Watershed Program (Texas Sea Grant and Texas AgriLife) added. “From the start the CLCWA worked on a vision of a multi-purpose detention project based on local community interests. The Water Authority is an incredibly responsive and engaged unit of local government.”

“In my 25 years of non-profit work, rarely if ever, have I seen an agency work so diligently on a challenging public project. This is a prime example of the true functions of this type of agency: increasing effectiveness while reducing long-term costs with the added benefit of recreational and environmental sustainability,” said Barry Ward, executive director of Trees For Houston.

See the Galveston Bay Foundation website recognizing the historic conservation agreement between GBF and CLCWA at http://galvbay.org/news/explorationgreen/.  GBF notes that both Exploration Green and the Clear Lake City Water Authority were awarded the 2013 Planning Award by the Houston-Galveston Area Council this past January. The HGAC ranked the conservation project at the top of nine public space development plans in the Houston region.

In celebration of the conservation agreement, the partner organizations recommend that residents throughout the Bay Area visit Exploration Green and explore the entire area. It is easily found by doing a Google Map search for the local zip code, 77062, and looking for the V-shaped property near the Clear Lake Recreation Center.

Exploration Green Conservancy, recently confirmed non-profit 501(c)(3) status by the IRS, is now accepting tax deductible donations for trees, shrubs and grasses; park equipment such as benches, landscaping tools, etc. For more information about contributing to Exploration Green, visit www.ExplorationGreen.org and click on “Donate Now.”