Thanks to the latest generous grants from charitable foundations, Willow Waterhole Greenway backers are moving ahead with plans to make it more of a prime regional destination for enjoying nature, relaxing and exercising.
A $500,000 grant from the Wortham Foundation and a $350,000 grant from the Fondren Foundation bring the Willow Waterhole Conservancy to a total of $10 million dollars raised for greenspace improvements.
Previous major grants included $2 million from the Kinder Foundation plus an additional $2 million in matching funds; $1.5 million from the Brown Foundation’ and $1 million from the Cullen Foundation.
The overall goal is $12 million.
“We are incredibly grateful to Wortham Foundation and Fondren Foundation trustees for these monumental gifts. The Greenway is a refuge for all Houstonians and their support will help transform the greenspace,” said Bill Burhans, president of the conservancy. “We’re continuing our fundraising and targeting foundations based on our prior success.”
Funds are being used to increase accessibility, purchase land adjacent to the property, and more immediately, begin construction on a fishing pier.
Work will begin next month on the $275,000 pier and will be completed in approximately four months. The 8-feet-wide pier made of concrete will extend 40 feet, then at a right angle another 20 feet, on 15-foot pilings. With water levels rising and falling with storm waters, the design will make the pier durable and low-maintenance.
As with other activities at the park, there will be no cost for fishing or for kayak-launching that will be enjoyed by residents at this new amenity.
Next, eight miles of new trails are being planned around the six lakes. Made out of concrete or crushed granite, there will be plenty of benches off the trails for taking in the views. Trash receptacles will be added and more shade trees will be planted in a continuing partnership with Trees for Houston and the Harris County Flood Control District.
The engineering and architecture designs for the trails will be done by the end of this year, with bids going out for the construction early next year. It’s hoped that construction on the trails can begin by late spring or summer 2023.
The funds will also help address the need for additional parking.
“We will expand the main lot at Westbury Lake and add three additional parking lots at other lakes,” Burhans explained.
Other projects are being considered as well, such as a pedestrian bridge across South Post Oak Road to link the east and west sides of the property.
Adjacent to the lake east of South Post Oak is a 15-acre prairie preserve Other possible enhancements to the preserve would include a boardwalk and education center.
Wildlife have already made the overall refuge their home as the serene preserve includes lakes, prairie, marsh, islands and native plants.
The six lakes and greenspace areas are overseen by the Flood Control District, Houston Parks & Recreation Department, Brays Oaks Management District and the conservancy.
Willow Waterhole Greenway
5300 Dryad Drive. Houston
— by Arlene Nisson Lassin