Presenter: Walt Dabney

Commission Agenda Item No. 10
Action
Transfer of Lake Houston State Park
to the City of Houston
January 2006

I. Executive Summary: Negotiations were authorized in the November 2005 Commission meeting between the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the City of Houston to consider the transfer of Lake Houston State Park to the City of Houston. With Commission approval today, the site will be transferred to the City of Houston.

II. Discussion: Negotiations were authorized in the November 2005 Commission meeting between the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the City of Houston to consider the transfer of Lake Houston State Park to the City of Houston. A written request from Houston Mayor Bill White has been received. A draft transfer agreement has been reviewed by both parties.

Sections 13.008 and 24.005 of the Parks and Wildlife Code allow consideration of transfer of parks owned or operated and maintained by the Department to a political subdivision for operation and maintenance. Lake Houston State Park contains 4,919.5 acres and is located in New Caney, thirty miles north of Houston, in both Harris and Montgomery Counties. The park was purchased from Champion Paper Company in 1981 and was opened to day-use in 1992; overnight use began in 1995.

The park is situated at the confluence of Caney Creek and the East Fork of the San Jacinto River and extends northward to FM 1485. The terrain consists of typically coastal surface and soils, many bayous, lakes and canals. Most parts of the park are heavily wooded.

In the early 1980's, the state purchased 4,710 acres from Champion Realty Corporation. In 1990, 202 acres adjacent to this area, owned by San Jacinto Girl Scout Council and home to Peach Creek Girl Scout Camp since 1955, was acquired. The Girl Scout Camp and Horse Ranch included lodges, campsites, and an equestrian area, providing girl scouts with summer activities such as camping, swimming, and horseback riding. The Girl Scout Camp lodges, camping areas, and trails have all been updated for park use. Activities include camping, nature study, bird watching, hiking, biking and horseback riding.

Fiscal year 2005 revenue generated by the park was $41,695. Annual expenses are approximately $125,000 of personnel costs, and $61,000 operating expenses. There are currently four full time classified employees at the park. These employees will be given the opportunity to apply for employment with the City of Houston.

TPWD held a public hearing in Splendora (near the park site in Montgomery County) to allow citizen comment on the proposed transfer. Public comment has been generally favorable. No transfer will occur without binding legal assurances that there will be no change in the current recreational character of the park, and no change in the natural resource and historical characteristics of the site. The site will be jointly operated by the City of Houston and Montgomery County. The department will review and approve all plans for future development at the park. A provision will be placed in the transfer deed that if the City fails to meet the requirements of the transfer agreement, the site ownership will revert to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. With Commission approval today, Department staff will execute a transfer agreement to begin the process of the transfer.

III. Recommendation: The staff recommends the Commission adopt the following motion:

"The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission finds that ownership of Lake Houston State Park is no longer in the best interest of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and authorizes the Executive Director to execute the necessary agreements to affect the site transfer of Lake Houston State Park to the City of Houston for use as a City park site so long as there are assurances of adequate protection of the resources and continued park use."


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