Efforts to preserve Harris county natural habitats boosted by LAND grad students’ proposals

Jon Rodiek

Future initiatives to ensure the preservation of plant and animal habitats in a suburban Houston public recreation area will be aided by land use maps and master plans created last spring by Texas A&M graduate landscape architecture students.

The 327-acre project area, bisected by Cypress Creek in north Harris County, includes densely wooded hiking trails and athletic fields as well as Mercer Arboretum, a public botanical gardens and woodland.

Led by Jon Rodiek, professor of landscape architecture, 21 students created an inventory of the area’s native birds, mammals, fish, trees, grasses and shrubs, as well as numerous maps charting soil types, wetlands, elevation, suitability for a variety of wildlife, and many other characteristics.

Students also divided the project area into seven smaller parcels and provided a habitat protection analysis for each.

Their data and proposals were compiled into a 365-page book to aid utility district and county officials as they seek funding to develop a comprehensive master plan for establishing a sustainable natural habitat for the area.

The student project is the latest in a 13-year partnership between the Texas A&M Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning and the Timber Lake Utility District, which manages the project area north of Cypress Creek.

The area features 201 acres of preserved green space — 90 percent of whose trails and fields were designed by Rodiek’s students in previous studios, said Bud Gessel, the district’s director and parks coordinator.

In 2005, students designed 21-acre Sandpiper Park and nine-acre Highland Glen Park, as well as the 4.5-mile Cypress Creek Hike and Bike Trail that connects them.

In the ensuing years, students designed other parks in the site, including Herman Little Park, which earned a 2012 Parks and Natural Areas Award from the Houston-Galveston Area Council.

In 2013, student-designed Cypress Creek Park at Timber Lane opened to the public. It features a skate park, a dog park, two nature observation decks, a fishing pier, a lake and two large ponds all connected with a series of winding trails with concrete, crushed granite and natural surfaces.

During the partnership, the utility district funded students’ trips to the area, where they conducted a site inventory, soil testing, water quality analysis, plant identification, soil examination and other data collection to inform their design solutions.

Richard Nira

rnira@arch.tamu.edu

posted August 14, 2018