LAND students design hike, bike trail for North Houston suburbs

Jon Rodiek

Jon Rodiek

A 6.5-mile hike-and-bike trail designed last fall by Texas A&M graduate landscape architecture students is poised to be the latest addition to a series of award-winning, Texas A&M student-designed parks and recreation spaces serving the suburban north Houston area.

The proposed Cypress Creek Hike and Bike System is the latest endeavor in a longstanding partnership between students led by Jon Rodiek, professor of landscape architecture, and the Timber Lane Utility District, which is located approximately 25 miles north of Houston in the Hardy Toll Road area. Since the partnership commenced in 2005, Rodiek’s students have designed a park master plan and several recreational spaces that were recognized for their excellence by the Houston-Galveston Area Council of Governments.

Students presented the latest trail plan, detailed in a 193-page report, at a Dec. 8, 2014 standing-room only public gathering in a TLUD meeting room. District officials will use the plan to solicit support for the project.

“The plans are a major step toward acquiring project funding,” said Bud Gessel, the district’s director and parks coordinator.

The semester-long planning process began with Rodiek’s 23 students divided into five groups, each responsible for imagining a section of the 6.5-mile trail that follows the north bank of meandering Cypress Creek. The new trail will tie into an existing two-mile trail along the creek.

The students visited the trail site to photograph and study characteristics of the area, including topography, flora and fauna.

The studio initially developed four alternative trail designs, with varied features, lighting options, access points and paths along the creek. Then they collaborated, narrowing the choices down to two alternative designs that were submitted to utility district officials who ultimately selected the features and modifications they preferred.

“Students tried to strike a balance where the trail was close, but not too close, to the creek — to take advantage of shade from nearby trees without disturbing them or the wildlife they shelter while also respecting nearby homeowners' privacy — and I think they did that,” said Rodiek. 

In the final report, students documented the site’s natural resources, land parcels, area demographics and the environmental impact of the design — important information for Texas Parks and Wildlife and other potential trail funding partners, said Rodiek.

“The trail design will help the district in its continuing effort to connect people with open space in a way that’s cost effective,” said Rodiek. “The district is a model of environmental stewardship and we’re really proud to be part of this effort.”

Another collaboration between TLUD and Rodiek’s landscape architecture studio is the student-designed Cypress Creek Park at Timber Lane, a 105-acre park just east of the Hardy Toll Road and 22 miles north of Houston, which includes a pond for fishing, a skateboard park and a hike and bike trail.

His students also designed the utility district’s Sandpiper Park and Herman Little Park, a total of 201 acres of preserved green space — 90 percent of which was designed by Rodiek’s students, said Bud Gessel, the district’s director.

Using the Texas A&M students’ designs, the district has secured $4.4 million in state and federal funding for its park system, which is located in a 100-year floodplain along the northern bank of Cypress Creek.

posted January 29, 2015