24 April 2024

Project InFocus: Harris County MUD 449 Ventana Lakes East Trails

Project Overview 
Harris County MUD 449 sought to add recreational diversity to their park system in 2022. EHRA landscape architects, in collaboration with the District Engineers, were commissioned to create a trail network in a section with a primary flood control function for the Ventana Lakes community. In seeing the opportunity to have multiple benefits with the trails system, EHRA landscape architects brainstormed ideas with the Parks Committee and Board of Directors of the MUD to activate and energize the place by introducing amenities to the multiple ponds. The park planning energized the client as their goal to create amenities, parks and places for residents gained momentum. Thinking of opportunities grander than a trail system, the park was informally master planned with additional, later phase amenities that could bring more recreational vitality to the community. The designated first phase of the park improvements was 2.2 miles of looping trail around three retention and detention ponds.  

Placemaking and Design 
In considering the detention area as a park, the potential for amenities became much more opportunistic. The informal master plan identified five unique park improvement projects for this area. Phase 1 was the 2.2 miles of trails, and they were designed to provide choices of trail lengths with a series of loops around the three ponds routed within an outer loop of trail. Trail users could not only choose variety in the pathway, but they could also choose the length of use according to their need or wish. The Ventana Lakes community was constructed with street sidewalks. The land plan and designated drainage patterns of the development provided six points of sidewalk-to-trail connectivity for the residents to gain access to the trail system and park. The trail was constructed with a generous all-weather trail width of 10 feet, giving ample room for walking, jogging and even some family outing bicycle riding. That width was also chosen to accommodate later phases of park improvements that will bring more park users to this area. The later phases in the informal master planning of the park may include potential projects such as a dog park, boardwalk and lighting. Cost of construction, land ownership permissions and an anticipated thorough jurisdictional review for permitting will challenge if not just the timing but the development of future projects. 

After a public bid process, the contract to construct the trails around the Ventana Lakes East ponds was executed by the Client. Permitting, grading, resolving unsuitable soil conditions, restricting public access to the construction areas and crossing easements were challenges overcome by the Contractor. The 2.2 miles of trail and the challenges it faced was constructed in four months.  

The residents living in Harris County MUD 449 have discovered the trails. Residents have found the trails as a source of leisure recreation, fitness, dog walking, nature observations and ways to congregate with neighbors and friends. The use of the trail system is active from dawn to dusk. During daylight hours, it is not uncommon to find dozens of trail users enjoying the amenity for leisure, recreation and fitness at any one time. We look forward to any and all future projects that will add more use to the trail system.