Recreation

Dig This: District Breaks Ground on Hike and Bike Trail

Dig This: District Breaks Ground on Hike and Bike Trail

A Scoop of a Story: Dishing the dirt are (from left): Jim Murphy, Westchase District; Lucio Ortiz, Texas Department of Transportation; Gwen Tillotson, City of Houston; Sandra Musgrove, Harris County Flood Control District; and Philip Schneidau, Westchase District Board of Directors.   City, county and state officials joined Westchase District for a groundbreaking ceremony recently marking the construction start of the Brays Bayou Connector Trail (BBCT). [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="300"] Steve Le, City Council Member District F, speaks at the District's groundbreaking for the Brays Bayou Connector Trail.[/caption] The new 1.92-mile trail will run south from Richmond Avenue to Bellaire Boulevard and will feature underpasses at Richmond, Westpark Drive, Westpark Tollway, Harwin Drive and Bellaire, allowing users to enjoy the trail entirely off-street. The BBCT will also connect to the City of Houston's on-street bikeway network via street connectors at each roadway intersection. "This is the first project under construction using funds from our 380 Area Agreement," said Jim Murphy, Westchase District's general manager, referring to an agreement between Westchase District and the City of Houston which provides money from property tax revenue increases to finance public infrastructure projects. "It represents the start of many more exciting projects already in cue that will improve the quality of life for Westchase District residents, workers and visitors." Construction of the BBCT will cost about $4 million and will be funded with a grant from the Federal Transit Agency and money from the 380 Area Agreement. Expected completion of the BBCT is Fall 2016.

Dig It: District Grows Trail Network

Dig It: District Grows Trail Network

In emerging subdivisions or master-planned communities, it’s relatively easy to develop a park or design a winding trail for residents. In an area with precious little undeveloped land such as Westchase District, shoehorning in outdoor amenities among existing structures can prove a challenge. However, by the end of this year Westchase District will feature nearly four miles of off-street trails for joggers, walkers and bicyclists. This spring Westchase District broke ground on Brays Bayou Connector Trail (BBCT), a new 1.92-mile off-street trail that will run south from Richmond Avenue to Bellaire Boulevard. The 8-to 10-foot concrete path will include benches, water fountains, trash receptacles, landscaping, wildflowers, tree groves and a four-piece workout station.

Building Connections
The most exciting thing about the trail is its connectivity to a larger system, according to Irma Sanchez, vice of projects for Westchase District. “This trail will connect to the City of Houston’s on-street bikeway network at each roadway intersection and to the Westchase Park & Ride on Harwin,” said Sanchez. The direct trail connection to this METRO facility will enable trail users access to METRO’s bus route 151 (Westpark Express), which travels to downtown. Across the street from the park and ride, BBCT will connect to the 8-acre, city-owned Harwin Park and the 81-acre, county-owned Arthur Storey Park, as well as the future Brays Bayou Trail. On the north end, the BBCT will connect at Richmond to the District’s existing Library Loop Trail., which loops east and west between the Robinson – Westchase Neighborhood Library, 3223 Wilcrest Drive, and the Deborah Sue Schatz United States Post Office, 2909 Rogerdale Road.
Underpass access
The new trail will feature underpasses at Richmond, Westpark Drive, Westpark Tollway, Harwin Drive and Bellaire Boulevard, allowing trail users to safely enjoy the trail entirely off-street. “We’re lowering the existing corrugated steel storm outlets and encasing them in square concrete box culverts to create the street underpasses,” said Irma Sanchez, vice president of projects for Westchase District. “This way they become a seamless part of the trail and users can travel right over the tops of them.” Sanchez estimates this portion of the project will run about $648,000. Construction of the BBCT will cost about $4 million and is being funded with a grant from the Federal Transit Agency and dollars from the 380 Area Agreement between Westchase District and the City of Houston, which provides money from property tax revenue increases to finance public infrastructure projects. “This project is an amazing opportunity to partner with the District,” said Gwen Tillotson, deputy director of economic development for the City of Houston. “Westchase is phenomenal at leveraging money from various sources to achieve their desired projects. This trail is a great example of that.”
Partnerships Net Progress
Another significant trail partner is the Harris County Flood Control District, which had to approve all the plans for the trail. “Our first mission is storm water drainage,” said Sandra Musgrove, HCFCD infrastructure division director. “Properly designed trails support that mission, while adding visibility and enhanced security along our bayous.” Still more trail partners exist in the form of landowners who gave the District recreational easements to build on their property, which is immediately adjacent to the canals. “Our congregation saw it as an opportunity to be of service to the District,” said Dr. Ed Montgomery, founder and pastor of Abundant Life Cathedral, whose property touches BBCT north of Harwin. “The trail is a way to promote healthy living and family interactions and I feel it will help to change the environment of our community.” The trail construction should be complete this fall.  “We’ve had some rain delays, but overall construction is good so far,” said Enrique Allende, project engineer with Miranda Construction, the contractor responsible for building BBCT. “The biggest challenge is working in tight spaces along the channel. Fitting our equipment in and having to work is tricky, but the property owners whose land backs up to the trail have been great about accommodating us.”
Power Walk
Another owner working with Westchase District is CenterPoint Energy, which allowed the District to maximize the wide swath of greenspace along the transmission corridor running north and south between Westheimer to Richmond. Through an agreement with CenterPoint, the District will begin construction soon on a trail that will connect to the Houston Community College campus at Westheimer and Hayes Road, with a mid-block crossing at Meadowglen Lane. The trail is an example of a larger effort between CenterPoint and the City of Houston to enhance the use of some 500 miles of transmission corridors crisscrossing the city. “While the trail itself is pretty basic, we’re looking at adding landscaping and benches to some open spaces just off the trail,” said Sanchez. “It will be yet another outdoor amenity that will help enlarge our trail network and enhance walkability in Westchase District.” She added that the trail will cost about $600,000, is paid for with funds from the 380 Area Agreement and a federal grant, and should be completed by the end of the year.

Little Free Libraries Popping Up on Library Loop Trail

Little Free Libraries Popping Up on Library Loop Trail

Perhaps you've heard of the Little Free Library movement? The concept is simple: quirky mailbox-like structures filled with books supplied by readers that are free for all to enjoy. Borrow a book or leave one to share with the world - it's a grass roots way to promote reading and randomly discover new books. Westchase District is getting on the literacy love by installing its first Little Free Library this week at the west entrance to the Library Loop Trail, next to the Robinson Westchase Library, 3223 Wilcrest Drive. The movement began in 2009 when Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, built a model of a one room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother. She was a teacher who loved to read, so he filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard. His neighbors and friends loved it. He built several more and gave them away. Each one had a sign that said FREE BOOKS.As of March 2016, more than 1,000 Little Free Libraries have been donated in Texas alone. Among the initial titles found in Westchase District's enclosed, two-story, birdhouse-looking bookshelf:

  • Tuesdays with Morrie
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • The Great Gatsby (complete with handwritten notes!)
"They create another cool amenity for our trail users and they help foster a literacy-friendly community," said Louis Jullien, Westchase District's project director. "I hope people will find new reading favorites and that they will share their favorite books with others." The installation is only the first of several Little Free Libraries to be located along the trail. Another one, sponsored by Zachry Group, will appear soon. If you or your company would like to sponsor a Little Free Library in Westchase District, contact Louis Jullien, 713-780-9434.

New Mural on Library Loop Trail

New Mural on Library Loop Trail

Everybody's favorite Westchase District mural painter Larry Crawford, founder of Mural Arts, recently expanded his public art palate from traffic control signal boxes to something a little larger.

Residing under a bridge

[caption id="attachment_5646" align="alignright" width="300"] Concrete Canvas: Larry Crawford, owner of Mural Arts, carefully adds detail to the box culvert at Wilcrest Drive.[/caption] Above the District's water habitat, located just east of Wilcrest Drive and behind the Robinson Westchase Library, is something called a box culvert. It's a concrete structure that spans the flood control channel and it's a space ripe for some artwork. The habitat is home to dozens of turtles, fish and other aquatic life. Larry has designed a mural that reflects the character of the area, including egrets, turtles, cardinals and a raccoon.

Tales on the Trail

We're celebrating debut of the mural with a reading and art event for the whole family that we're calling "Tales on the Trail." It's on Saturday, July 23 from 9 to 10:30 a.m. in the parking lot of the Robinson-Westchase Neighborhood Library, 3223 Wilcrest Drive. The event will feature a free grab-and-go breakfast, story times for children, a coloring book station, a book exchange at the District's new Little Free Library (see right) and chalk art classes on the Library Loop Trail with mural artist Larry Crawford. Come one, come all for a morning of family-friendly fun!

Recreational Reading as Walking Trail Attraction

Recreational Reading as Walking Trail Attraction

Take a book, leave a book: The new, Little Free Library along the Library Loop Trail is now open for all to enjoy.


Perhaps you've heard of the Little Free Library movement? The concept is simple: quirky mailbox-like structures filled with books supplied by readers that are free for all to enjoy. Borrow a book or leave one to share with the world - it's a grass roots way to promote reading and randomly discover new books. Westchase District got on board with literacy love by installing its first Little Free Library this summer at the west entrance to the Library Loop Trail, next to the Robinson Westchase Library, 3223 Wilcrest Drive. Among the initial titles found in the enclosed, two-story, birdhouse-looking bookshelf:
  • Tuesdays with Morrie
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • The Great Gatsby (complete with handwritten notes!)
“It creates another cool amenity for our trail users and they help foster a literacy-friendly community,” said Louis Jullien, Westchase District's project director. “I hope people will find new reading favorites and that they will share their favorite books with others.” Jullien said that he’s had to restock the library several times since its debut. “I guess everyone is busy reading their books and haven’t returned them or left a favorite title yet for others to enjoy,” he said. The installation is only the first of several Little Free Libraries to be located along the trail. Another one, sponsored by Zachry Group, will appear soon at the eastern trailhead on Rogerdale Road and a third is planned near the trail’s Walnut Bend crossing. If you or your company would like to sponsor a Little Free Library in Westchase District, contact Louis Jullien, 713-780-9434.

Wings Over Westchase That Never Leave the Ground

Wings Over Westchase That Never Leave the Ground

Winging It: Mural artist Larry Crawford works on a giant mural that now adorns the concrete slope along the District’s Library Loop Trail.


There’s more public art on display in Westchase District and this time mural artist Larry Crawford is thinking big. How big? Well, his latest mural depicting six butterflies is about 80 feet wide by 30 feet tall. “It’s the biggest single project I’ve done by myself,” said Crawford, owner of Mural Arts. “If you’re walking the trail, you won’t be able to miss it.”
Marvelous Mural
The mural is painted along the District’s Library Loop Trail between Rogerdale Road and Walnut Bend Lane, just north of Richmond Avenue. At the junction where the flood control channel next to the trail turns south, the butterfl y mural decorates the north concrete slope. Earlier this year, Crawford painted six city utility boxes in Westchase District with “muralitos,” of various animals and objects. Minus weather delays, the project took about eight days to complete. For this mural, Crawford estimates he used about 45 gallons of primer, paint and a clear coat finish. Any secret ingredients? “I simply use Behr Premium Plus outdoor exterior paint from Home Depot,” he said. “It stands up to the weather really well, plus I know people will be walking and sitting on the mural taking pictures, so the image needs to be able to take some abuse.” Crawford said he’s not too worried about the mural being defaced by graffiti. “Throughout my career, I’ve found that most people who tag structures respect my art and what I’m trying to do and they leave it alone,” he said. What’s next for Crawford? “I’ll be painting three more traffic signal control boxes in the District,” he said, “plus I’m redoing one that was ruined when the city replaced the box. It was a bummer to lose the artwork, but hey, at least it keeps me working.”
Mural Debut Celebration December 2
You can come celebrate the official debut of the mural at "Wings Over Westchase," Friday, Dec. 2 from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Parking is available in the visitors area at 10700 Richmond Avenue. Enjoy breakfast, music, chalk art for kids and photo opportunities with both the mural and mural artist. For more info, send an email to Louis Jullien.