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City receives grant for WaterSmart park

LEAGUE CITY — Faced with the threat of water resources drying up in the near future, League City will initiate its first major water conservation tool in the form of a park.

The city received a $665,036 Clean Water Act grant from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to build a WaterSmart Park near Louisiana Avenue south of FM 518.

Construction of the 3-acre park will begin in four to six months, Chien Wei, League City’s parks and cultural services director, said.

The park will educate residents and developers on ways to reduce water usage and contamination through community gardens, native plant displays, a nature play area, rain barrels and an outdoor classroom.

 

Texas Coastal Watershed Program environmental specialists, for two years, will test storm water at the park after it passes through natural purification systems that reduce pollutants in runoff, including a rain garden, bioswales, a green roof on a pavilion and pervious concrete pavement.

The tests will determine the efficiency of each feature at reducing levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and bacteria in storm water, Charriss York, storm water projects coordinator with the Texas Coastal Watershed Program, said.

City council members in 2003 accepted the parkland from Lingo Properties, which developed The Meadows subdivision, as payment for a part of the developer’s park dedication fees.

League City will spend $354,249 from the park dedication fund on construction and $156,488 from the general fund over a three-year period for staff time, Wei said.

Acceptance of the grant narrowly passed Feb. 22 in 4-3 council vote, with council members Phyllis Sanborn, Mike Lee and Mick Phalen opposed.

Phalen said he thinks the park would turn out to be only an expensive neighborhood playground for nearby children.

“I’m not against the concept,” Phalen said. “I’m against spending $1.2 million for 3 acres that will not turn out to be much in my opinion.”

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality considers waterways in League City impaired by bacteria and other contaminants.

Residential and commercial landscapes consume at least 50 percent of municipal water supplies in the Upper Texas Gulf Coast region during the summer, according to the watershed program.

As it drains, storm water collects pollutants from landscapes and pavement that end up in streams, bayous and Galveston Bay, York said.

Further population growth near the coast will increase stress on local waters, environmental officials said.

Once built, League City’s WaterSmart Park will have the most water conservation and natural storm water treatment features of all public parks in Texas, York said.

A rain garden is a shallow depression that captures runoff water. Soil, instead of clay typically found in the region, and native plants filter pollutants before storm water travels to local waterways.

Bioswales resemble drainage ditches and are filled with vegetation that traps pollutants.

Data collected from the Texas Coastal Watershed Program tests will show which landscaping efforts best reduce contaminants in storm water locally.

“We’re trying to decide what are the best practices for our area conditions and soils,” York said. “We really need the data to know.”

League City officials will use the results to evaluate and develop storm water ordinances and develop a program to retrofit commercial, public and residential property with green landscaping.

Low-impact development is a new concept to the area, York said.

Cities around the country have promoted “10,000 rain garden” initiatives, and similar campaigns would begin in the Galveston Bay area once officials determine which water conservation practices work best locally, York said.

“We as a region are only a few years away from consuming more water than we have,” Tony Allender, League City’s planning and research director, said. “We have to be more creative and responsible with the way we use water.”

By Hayley Kappes
Galveston County Daily News
Published February 27, 2011