Over 30 concerned residents attended the Kingwood Service Association (KSA) Parks Meeting June 1 and voiced their concerns over a rumor that had gone viral on local internet sites and as a flyer distributed in parts of Kingwood. The rumor and flyer stated that there was serious consideration by KSA to turn the Creekwood Nature Reserve near Bear Branch Village into a dog park. The unsigned flyer described the action as putting a strip mine in Kingwood’s midst.
It said it would create a loud barking dog nuisance to homeowners, lower property values, threaten trees and wildlife habitat and create heavy traffic on residential streets along with parking issues and increased risks of crime. The flyer was wrong but it did have one redeeming quality: it encouraged residents to attend the June 1 KSA Parks Committee Meeting and many did.
The source of the rumor is unknown but the parks committee had committed to doing a voluntary feasibility study at the request of a Kingwood resident at its April 6 Parks meeting. The details of the discussion leading up to that decision were explained in The Tribune both online and in the paper on May 3 under the story title: “Kingwood resident suggests dog park in East End Park.” Committee representative Bob Rehak of Kings Forest volunteered to head up a study of all the issues associated with the idea to see if it was feasible, affordable and most importantly, desired by the residents of Kingwood.
During April and May, Rehak did what he volunteered to do. He researched and prepared a comprehensive presentation to be presented to the committee on the same night, coincidentally, as the flyer’s request for residents to attend the meeting to voice their objections.
At the start of the meeting, it was obvious there was a high degree of interest, and even tension, in the room. Chairman Chris Manthei of Bear Branch announced a change in the order of the agenda to allow Rehak to make his presentation in the hopes it would answer the many questions and concerns of the residents and put the false rumor to rest.
Rehak delivered a complete and detailed report with slides, Google Earth photographs and aerial maps that answered nearly all of the concerns and questions residents had before they came to the meeting. He opened with a list of “pros” and “cons” for having a dog park and noted this idea had been periodically suggested over the years and the committee had always decided not create a KSA-controlled dog park. However, he noted that much has changed and it is appropriate to consider the issue again.
Among the “cons” were the destruction of nature, i.e. trees and wild habitat, fear of a negative impact on home values, traffic and parking congestion, cost, maintenance, fear of aggressive dogs, smell and sanitation, bringing in outside crime and the creation of “a nuisance neighbor.” Among the “pros,” he included the fact that 44 percent of Kingwood households own a dog; dog parks are a popular request in home searches and often tip the scale in the home buying decision; the dog park enables exercise for dogs and promotes more social activity in humans, reduces aggressiveness in dogs (based on a New York study) and increases support for natural areas. A dog park promotes happiness, enjoyment and connecting with nature for many people with dogs.
“We looked at a bunch of areas,” Rehak said. He presented a description of each of eight locations that included convenience, environmental impact, traffic issues such as available parking or space to create parking, ease of access, proximity to homes, impact on adjacent park areas or other residential areas, maintenance, access to water and a ball park estimate of cost factors. The locations ranged from two in the East End Park area, two in the River Grove Park area, the Creekwood location near Bear Branch Village (the location in the rumors), a location near the Kingwood Country Club, and two locations outside of Kingwood, one along Hamblen Road in an abandoned, flood-prone area and the other just south of the San Jacinto River on the east side of Highway 59.
By every standard, the Creekwood location near Bear Branch was completely unacceptable. Rehak recommended if a dog park were to be built by KSA, the best location would be the River Grove Park location across the road from the park restrooms with available sources of water. There is currently nothing established there and a minimum of tree removal and cost would be needed to prepare and maintain the park.
Following Rehak’s presentation, there were still a few questions but most of the concerns of the residents were satisfied. One resident asked who had requested the park in the first place. Manthei respected the privacy and rights of the person who had made the request when he said, “A resident of Kingwood made the request. When a resident of Kingwood makes this kind of request, we are obligated to give it fair consideration.” Manthei noted he had been dubious about the original request for a Frisbee course in River Grove Park but it had surprised him how popular and well accepted it had become by many of the residents.
After the public comments were completed, the board decided to continue to look further into the issue with the first priority being to try to find a location outside of Kingwood, perhaps the Hamblen Road location, with arrangements made through the city and Harris County or other governmental jurisdictions. If that effort fails, the committee will get into more detailed planning for what it would take to establish a dog park at River Grove Park. In any event, the committee will make no decision until full and accurate costs and impacts are determined. Manthei and Dee Price of Sand Creek both suggested this decision required immediate input this month from every homeowner association. Any decision to move forward on it should be presented to the KSA Board of Directors for final approval once all details are worked out.
The next KSA Parks meeting will be Thursday, July 6, at 7 p.m. at the South Woodland Hills Community Room, 2030 Shadow Rock Drive in Kingwood.
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