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Aug. 28, 2006
Lake Houston State Park Transfers to City of Houston
NEW CANEY, Texas — Lake Houston State Park has become the latest Texas Parks and Wildlife Department property to be transferred out of the state park system. It is the 10th such state property to be transferred in the last six years.
The transition from state park to a Houston city park, and name change to Lake Houston Park, became official during an Aug. 25 ceremony at the park attended by TPWD officials, Houston Mayor Bill White and commissioners from Harris and Montgomery counties.
“The transfer represents a wonderful opportunity for both the City of Houston and surrounding counties to preserve green space and to increase tourism and economic development that will benefit the entire area,” White said.
The 5,000-acre park straddles the Montgomery and Harris County lines near New Caney. The heavily wooded property is located just south of the confluence of Caney Creek and the east fork of the San Jacinto River. The state park opened for day use in 1992 and began taking overnight campers in 1995 after an adjacent Girl Scout camp containing lodges and other facilities was acquired by the state. Activities include camping, nature study, bird watching, hiking, biking and horseback riding.
Lake Houston joins such other former state parks as Jim Hogg, Old Fort Parker and Kerrville-Schreiner, which have fallen off the state parks roster as a result of a legislative directive and state park budget considerations.
In 1999, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 2108 that directed TPWD to contact governmental entities in jurisdictions with state parks to determine their interest in possibly taking over the state properties and authorized up to $2 million in grants per year to local entities that take over park ownership and operations.
State lawmakers were spurred to action, in part, by a 1998 Texas A&M study of the future of Texas’ outdoor resources that found some state park system holdings might be redundant or more appropriately operated by other public entities.
More recently, budget shortfalls in the TPWD’s State Parks Division have led to several difficult cost-saving measures, including the transfer of several sites, reductions in operations at other parks and staff layoffs. No state parks have been closed, but transfers of Bright Leaf State Natural Area, Copano Bay Fishing Pier and the Nimitz Museum, as well as the reassignment of Matagorda Island State Park as a wildlife management area, have taken place.
The Lake Houston transfer agreement calls for the continued safeguard of the park’s natural and cultural resources and provides public recreation as is consistent with TPWD’s mission.
“We are grateful for and encouraged by the enthusiasm our city and county partners have expressed about assuming responsibility for what will be known as Lake Houston Park,” said Robert L. Cook, TPWD executive director. “We have a clear understanding that they will continue the park’s current recreational character and safeguard its natural resource and historical characteristics. It took careful consideration and lengthy discussion with our partners, but it was clear in this case that transferring this site to local control was the right thing to do for the park and people who will enjoy it in future years.”
The Houston Parks and Recreation Department will manage the park facility for the city. The park offers a variety of overnight facilities and an extensive trail system that skirts Peach Creek and winds through dense woodlands of pines and hardwoods teeming with wildlife only 30 miles from Houston’s soaring skyline.
TPWD’s state park reservation center in Austin will continue to handle reservations for the park for the present time. For reservations, call (512) 389-8900.
To reach Lake Houston Park from Houston, take U.S. Highway 59 north to the New Caney exit (FM 1485) and take Baptist Encampment Road to the main park entrance. For more park information, call (281) 354-6881.*
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