Garcia unveils final Pct. 2 Parks & Trails Plan

New exercise equipment at Highlands Park is an example of improvements underway at existing Pct. 2 parks.
New exercise equipment at Highlands Park is an example of improvements underway at existing Pct. 2 parks.

By Gilbert Hoffman

PCT 2 HARRIS COUNTY – Last Thursday, Oct. 14 Commissioner Adrian Garcia presented the completed Parks and Trails Plan to the community. This plan is not only meant to enhance the physical environment of the various parks and neighborhoods in Precinct 2, but also to weave a cohesive relationship between different neighborhoods through the precinct. The Commissioner has initiated an ambitious project, to study each community and present a Comprehensive Master Plan for enhancing the physical and quality of life aspects of its features. This includes roads, drainage, and other amenities as well as the park system.

The presentation of the Parks and Trails Final Plan was made through ZOOM, to an audience that totalled almost 100 participants. The presentation was made by Katie Coyne, project manager for the landscape planning firm AsakuraRobinson. It was monitored by Jorge Bustamante, planning manager of Precinct 2.

After over a year of meeting with community stakeholders, the Precinct 2 Parks and Trails Plan is complete. Through a collaborative process involving in-depth community engagement, research, and analysis, the Precinct 2 Parks and Trails Plan outlines how the parks and trails system will best serve the diverse communities in Precinct 2. The Plan will guide the Commissioner and the Precinct 2 team in prioritizing investments, incorporating best practices for programming and design, and help create and maintain the best parks and trails for the Precinct 2 community.

In his welcoming remarks, Commissioner Garcia called parks “A Place to Celebrate Community.” He said Parks and trails in Precinct 2 provide opportunities for communities to safely come together, play, exercise, and connect with nature. Now more than ever, parks are a vital resource for all residents.

Garcia spoke about improvements that have already been made to existing parks, and plans for further development of the whole system. He was especially enthusiastic about the “All Inclusive” park being built at James Driver Park in the Aldine area, where adults and children with physical or cognitive disabilities will be able to participate in outdoor activities. He said his goal was to make other parks inclusive, as well.

An “All Inclusive” park at James Driver Park in Aldine is an example of new thinking to accommodate persons with physical or cognitive disabilities.

Ms. Coyne presented the Goals & Objectives in the Parks plan. She said that parks should be designed to be (1) Safe; (2) Accessible and Connected; (3) Healthy; (4) Culturally Relevant; (5) Engaging; (6) Environmentally Resilient; and (7) Economically Resilient.

In developing the Plan, AsakuraRobinson used 24 focus groups, 3 walking tours, 2 virtual community events, and 5 weeks of social media, yard signs and other means to engage residents. The Community Survey had over 900 responses, Coyne said. High priorities in the responses included accessibility, parking, clean restrooms, more lighting, more seating, more security, and trail markers. Other suggestions included food trucks, emergency call systems, and interactive programs.

The Parks and Trails Plan was presented in a book of 137 pages, and a Power Point slide show. The plan went into great detail about methodology of the study, evaluation of existing parks, recommendations for their further development, and opportunities for new parks and trails within the precinct. A section of the Plan included Design Guidelines for future developments. Goals were defined as both short term and long term, and both local, neighborhood and precinct-wide.

Commissioner Garcia said that he was currently making an inventory of available vacant land in the precinct, with the possibility of developing more parks and trails. He also indicated that the plan will be used to improve and renew features of existing parks and trails.