Exploration Green gets $500,000 grant

May 2nd, 2019

The Clear Lake City Water Authority and Exploration Green Conservancy have been awarded a $500,000 grant to help in their joint effort to make the Clear Lake area a safer and more enjoyable place to live.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission recently awarded the grant to develop pedestrian trails, landscape and site restoration, and help fund installations of irrigation systems. Exploration Green received the People’s Choice Award for Urban Land Institute Development of Distinction, recognizing the Exploration Green Conservancy, a non-profit, for its conservation efforts and dedication to environmentalism and safety for all citizens in the Houston Bay Area.

Exploration Green was only on Phase 1 of 5 when Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston last year. It was estimated to have retained a 100 million gallons of water and prevented more than 100 homes from flooding in the surrounding neighborhoods. The second phase started this year and will add another pond, wetlands, trails, and 1,000 native trees.

NEARING END
Phase 2 should be completed by the end of 2019. Construction on Phases 3 and 4 will begin later this year and will be completed in 2020. The final Phase 5 will begin construction in 2020 and will be completed in 2021. When all five phases are complete, they will hold half a billion gallons of storm water.

The project utilizes natural infrastructure to protect our vulnerable community from imminent disasters. The purpose is to build a vital stormwater detention on a 200-acre recreation space to preserve the bay and surrounding areas. Exploration Green is a nature-based solution to prevent tragedies before disaster strikes and provide park recreation area for citizens and wildlife habitat. Last fall, Exploration Green was recognized by the Galveston Bay Foundation as its governmental “Guardian of the Bay.” It was also recognized with the National Disaster Resilience Award sponsored by Allied World Insurance and the National Wildlife Federation.

The wetlands implement man-made filtration systems for storm sewer runoff before it is released downstream. Recycled water systems are used to maintain clean water for aquatic life and wildlife, and utilized as a drought-proof water source for the community.

VOTERS APPROVE
Funding for the construction of the detention ponds was approved by CLCWA voters in 2016. The Exploration Green Conservancy was created to engage the community in fundraising for all the amenities and coordinating volunteer support.

Frank Weary, chairman of the Exploration Green Conservancy, said, “The response from the community has been phenomenal with over 9,000 volunteer hours documented already. Fundraising has been a huge success and we continue to seek new grants and gifts to complete all five phases.”

Exploration Green is a great role model for sustainable development along the Gulf Coast, CLCWA President John Branch pointed out. “Policymakers must realize in order to maintain our precious Bay Area Houston community we need to be proactive and prioritize planning. Amenity funding has been graciously donated from groups such as Trees for Houston, Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Galveston Bay Foundation, City of Houston, Texas Community Watershed Program, Space Center Rotary Club, and Harris County,” he added. Recently, a representative from FEMA visited the project for consideration as a national model for local flood control, Branch said.

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 plans grand opening of Phase 1

April 1st, 2018

By Mary Alys Cherry

Exploration Green, the Bay Area hidden jewel, which helped save hundreds of Clear Lake homes from Harvey’s floodwaters, will have the grand opening of Phase 1 Saturday, April 28 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 16200 Diana Lane.

Community leaders, residents and elected officials are being invited to join the celebration, which will include a tree planting ceremony to commemorate the completion of the first phase of the 200-acre green space, that for many years was the Clear Lake Golf Course before the Clear Lake City Water Authority purchased the land and helped form the Exploration Green Conservancy to provide the community with more green space and save it from future flooding.

“The partnership is dedicated to creating and operating the habitat restoration and recreation facilities within Exploration Green while supporting its invaluable use for stormwater detention,” Conservancy Vice President Doug Peterson explains, adding, “It’s a seasonal solution for flooding and a year-round amenity!”

The idea appears to be working as community volunteers have worked for months planting trees along Phase I, which is next to the Clear Lake City Recreation Center.

“Come celebrate with us,” Peterson suggests. “Everyone is welcome to come meet their neighbors, discover local organizations and explore their new green space and its one-mile trail. It will be a fun-filled day, packed with activities and entertainment for all ages, even live music.”

Exploration Green Conservancy is an all-volunteer, grassroots nonprofit dedicated to the protection and enhancement of Exploration Green — a permanently-protected, 200-acre natural park and one of the last open green spaces in the NASA/Clear Lake area.

Plans are for Exploration Green to feature a series of five connected finger lakes, 12 miles of hike-and-bike trails, safe play areas, multi-use athletic fields and inspiring gathering spaces. Complementing these amenities will be water-cleansing natural wetland areas; habitat islands for indigenous wildlife, including resident and migrating birds, amphibians and butterflies; and a reforested, more natural environment for native grasses, flowers and trees.

For more information, visit www.explorationgreen.org

Harvey a challenge for Exploration Green

February 1st, 2018

Exploration Green Phase 1 detention lake, after its great performance during Hurricane Harvey’s 45+ inches of rain in the immediate area. Drone photo by Darren Riggle

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.

Donations needed
“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.

CLCWA Moves Forward with Phase 1 Exploration Green Excavation

July 27th, 2015

explorationgreen

The Clear Lake City Water Authority plans to move forward with the excavation of the Exploration Green Phase 1 flood detention area in the fall time frame.

The CLCWA is setting in motion a pilot excavation after Harris County Flood Control District approved a transfer to the Water Authority of about 20 acres of drainage ditch property at the site.  CLCWA is requesting permits from the City of Houston and Harris County for the excavation with a planned completion of the initial detention pond area in mid-2016.

The Phase 1 pond area, located behind the Clear Lake City Recreation Center and between Diana Lane, Reseda Drive and Ramada Drive, will be dry initially except for naturally occurring water from rain and groundwater as a permit request to add treated reuse water continues through a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality review process. The CLCWA expects the TCEQ permit amendment to be approved also by mid-2016.

As the excavation begins, the Section 1 area will be appropriately fenced off and security measures enforced to ensure safety of local residents and Exploration Green visitors. The public is encouraged to visit the other four sections of Exploration Green which will remain open for green space enjoyment including walking, running, bird-watching and much more.

“We see an urgency to begin the project so the Clear Lake community can have greatly improved flood protection sooner rather than later, according to CLCWA Vice President John Branch. “While the ponds are a great amenity with important environmental wetlands benefits, the excavated pond area will immediately provide added flood control and allow us to continue the exemption from the City of Houston drainage fee.  That currently amounts to around $2.4 million a year for our residents and businesses.”

“The Exploration Green Conservancy and its volunteers are celebrating the decision to move forward with the recreation, conservation and flood control area,” said Frank Weary, the EGC chair. “The Exploration Green Tree and Wetlands Nurseries are filled with a variety of native Texas trees and water plants waiting to be planted by our energized volunteers.”

Exploration Green Conservancy, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization established to provide amenities for the Exploration Green park, is now accepting tax deductible donations for trees, shrubs and grasses; park and landscaping equipment such as benches, nursery and irrigation systems. For more information about contributing to Exploration Green visit www.ExplorationGreen.org and click on “Donate Now.”