At its Oct. 3 meeting, the Kingwood Service Association (KSA) Parks Committee unanimously approved up to $60,000 to immediately begin emergency repairs to the trails in Kingwood’s East End Park. The action followed a detailed summary, including aerial pictures, provided by park steward Bob Rehak of Kings Forest Village. The repairs are needed immediately to make the serviceable areas of the park safe for the public following extensive damage by flooding from Tropical Depression Imelda on Sept. 19. The damage was so extensive the Parks Committee is now evaluating whether two of the trails should be closed permanently. Those decisions will be made once the committee has obtained cost estimates of various options under consideration.
Rehak said, “Imelda was not kind to East End Park. The floodwaters inundated most of the park. It was as destructive to the park as Harvey, if not more so. During Imelda, the East Fork got most of the rain. Over on the west side, The Woodlands, Lake Conroe areas, they got 2 inches out of the storm.”
Rehak highlighted the magnitude of the event which he deemed historic: the storm included 30.4 inches of rain in 48 hours on East Fork at FM 2090 in the Plum Grove area; 9.2 inches fell in two hours; the East Fork of the San Jacinto River migrated south into the park; it cut off two trails: Pelican Overlook and Eagle Point; and every trail in the park was either scoured smooth or had sediment and sand deposition obstructing them.
“One of the things that made it so destructive was that the entire river migrated on the northern shore of the park by about 50 feet and started eating into our trails,” Rehak said. He provided pictures showing the trails are incomplete and go off the edge of the park into the river.
Rehak explained that he was in still the process of estimating repair costs which he explained will not be simple and will involve several options. Those options will have to be approved by the committee and likely the KSA Board of Directors, depending on costs of the various options. These include: abandoning the current Eagle Point Trail and blocking its entrance with dead trees and warning signs about the condition of the closed trail; reconnecting South Loop and Pelican Overlook Trails with a new trail that bypasses a high-water overflow channel; creating a new trail that reconnects surviving portions of Pelican Overlook Trail; and investigating the cost of installing a low boardwalk over a portion of South Loop Trail that has repeatedly flooded and compare that to the cost of moving the trail to the top of a berm another 50-100 feet into the forest.
In the meantime, Rehak requested immediate approval for repairs to existing trails, minus the options for a new bypass trail and lengthy boardwalk. In addition, he asked the motion include the appointment of a three-person team from the committee to review all the costs for reasonableness and have the power to approve them as they occur for the immediate repairs. He explained this was needed because the estimates do not yet exist. The three-person team would consist of him, Dee Price, who is responsible for accounting for the budget by the Parks Committee, and Maryann Fortson, who has previously served as the East End Park Steward and is totally familiar with the park. Rehak explained that an immediate approval was needed for safety reasons.
“There are hazardous trail conditions, possible cave-ins along the trails, hundreds of trail scours and holes in the trails that make walking dangerous,” said Rehak. He pointed out that there were people using the park now and keeping them out was not likely to be successful because it is a very popular area for residents.
Several committee members asked how much the immediate repairs would cost. Rehak said they were still being estimated and did not know but it was likely in the tens of thousands of dollars rather than just a few thousand dollars and the long-term costs would be significant and vary depending on the decisions on options about closing two trails and building new trails and boardwalks.
The committee discussed the options and reviewed what was remaining in funds for Harvey Recovery, about $35,000 out of $100,678 authorized, and how much of the normal maintenance and contingency funds for budgeted 2019 were expected to be unused. Based on the availability of Harvey-related funds and historically budgeted but not spent funds the committee authorized up to a limit of $60,000 with each expenditure to be approved by the three-person team Rehak proposed. Final decisions of the non-emergency repairs will be decided in future meetings and will likely require KSA Board of Directors approval.
In other business, the committee denied by an 8-to-6 vote approval of a bid to dredge the River Grove Park Boat Ramp and boardwalk areas because of a projected total bid cost of $500,000. This bid was substantially lower than one previously received but there was still a concern by many on the committee that an expenditure this big needed to be run by their homeowner associations before approval or to seek input for further modifications to reduce the cost. These modifications would likely reduce or eliminate the boardwalk. Price said changing the boardwalk as part of the project would reduce the costs but she did not know how much, depending on what the final dredging and disposal specifications of a new bid would require.
Chairman Chris Manthei of Bear Branch explained that his vote did not mean he wanted to eliminate either the boat ramp or the rest of the project. He said, “I voted against it so I could take it back to my board for discussion.”
The majority of the committee agreed and the motion was defeated. However, the dredging project is not dead. It will be defined as it was voted on or with changes determined with input from the homeowners associations.
The next KSA Parks meeting will be Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. at the South Woodland Hills Community Room, 2030 Shadow Rock Drive. The public is invited to attend.