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A Recreation Destination
Josey Lake Park - Cypress, Texas

by Landscape Architectural Design Lead, Clark Condon

A Recreation Destination

Located in Cypress, Texas, a suburb of Houston, Josey Lake Park is a 140-acre recreational park that provides opportunities to enjoy nature and multiple outdoor activities while also serving as a central greenspace to surrounding communities and commercial developments.

Josey Lake Park, designed by Houston-based landscape architecture firm Clark Condon, is a signature, 140-acre recreational greenspace that provides concurrent accessibility to nature and activities while also serving as a regional connector to neighboring communities and commercial developments. While its primary functions are stormwater detention and conveyance infrastructure, the design objective was to take land typically designated for infrastructure and turn it into an exceptional amenity with various ecosystem types and multiple levels of active and passive recreation. Several other items were taken into consideration including long-term maintenance costs, varying ecologies and wildlife habitat, improving stormwater quality and providing an area suitable to host community events.

An additional part of the scope for Josey Lake Park was an Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) permit to implement enhanced floodwater storage and natural wetland enhancements in a suburban setting. Creative site grading produced very generous slopes which provided ample real estate to accommodate recreational activities both below and above the 100-year flood elevation. Approximately 80% of Josey Lake Park is located below the 100-year flood elevation. In traditional detention systems, these areas are typically void of development. Considering the five, ten and 25-year rainfall event elevations, program elements were strategically placed throughout the site to utilize all available land from the high bank down to the static water elevation.

A Recreation Destination

Through a carefully planned planting design that responds well to various flood level elevations experienced in the area, many different areas were created to support habitats for birds, butterflies and small wildlife such as raccoons, bats, skunks and turtles.

A Recreation Destination

Josey Lake Park's amenities include boardwalks, a central lake, an events pavilion, a playground, a boat house and forestation plantings layered with active and passive recreational elements. A series of pedestrian underpasses and neighborhood trails allow users to avoid vehicular conflicts when accessing the park.

Examining Ecosystems

Through an integrated planting design that respects the various flood level elevations, multiple ecosystems were created ranging from wetlands and grasslands to forestlands. These ecosystems provide a habitat for birds, butterflies and small wildlife, as well as nonpoint pollution filtering. The design created 13 acres of emergent and submergent wetlands along the shorelines and islands to offer a habitat for aquatic and terrestrial species, water quality polishing and aesthetic enhancement, while also creating a natural setting for public enjoyment.

The wetland shelves were planted with noninvasive, native wetland plants such as Marsh Hay Cordgrass, Switchgrass and Gamma Grass, which will sustain a habitat for fish, amphibians, aquatic and migratory birds of the Central Flyway, like the blackburnian warbler and the scarlet tanager. Thirty acres of prairie landscape were recreated using 22 species of native grasses and wildflowers. In time, the native grasses and wildflowers installed in these areas will become a substantive landscape providing food and shelter for prairie wildlife.

A Recreation Destination

An extensive skywalk takes users to the 23-foot tall birding tower to view the park. Mounted binoculars provide the opportunity to observe the migratory birds of the Central Flyway, such as the blackburnian warbler and the scarlet tanager.

Reforestation is the final component to the Josey Lake Park ecosystem. Significant acreage was dedicated to reforestation and close to 2,000 trees were planted outside of the reforestation areas within the park. The tree and reforestation palettes include pine, hardwoods and various understory materials to ensure the mature reforested areas will provide habitat for animals typically found in the Houston region where the piney woods and post oak savannah merge. Such animals include raccoons, bats, skunks, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, reptiles and turtles.

The park was also designed to reduce long-term maintenance costs. Upon establishment of the prairie and reforestation plantings, these areas will become regenerative and not require the typical maintenance associated with manicured landscapes. Also, irrigation in these areas can be greatly decreased, further reducing regularly irrigated acreage of the park by over 50%.

A Recreation Destination

Josey Lake Park is centrally located amongst three villages of the Bridgeland Community. Traversing the park in any direction provides easy access to parks, trails, recreations, playgrounds, schools, shopping, churches and employment. In addition, a series of pedestrian underpasses and neighborhood trails allow users to avoid vehicular conflicts when accessing the park.

Given that much of the project is prone to stormwater inundation, there was an inherent need to use resilient materials. Concrete boardwalks, in lieu of traditional wooden boardwalks, traverse wetland shelves and present several overlook opportunities. Accoya wood, an acetylated wood approved by the Forest Stewardhip Council (an association that ranks types of wood by their positive or negative impact on the environment), is used for decking, cladding, soffit and railing applications and carries a 50-year guarantee. Limestone quarried from west Texas is used throughout the site in a range of applications from building cladding to retaining walls.

A Recreation Destination

Gentle side slopes were created above the static water level and there are equally shallow slopes below the waterline creating wetland shelves. These shelves were utilized to meet the Army Corps of Engineers' mitigation requirements and were planted with native wetland plants, which will provide habitat for fish, amphibians, aquatic and migratory birds. In addition, these generous slopes provide an inviting environment for boating recreation.

Ample Amenities

Josey Lake Park is an amenity-rich park with ample programming that immerses users in various ecosystems and offers a variety of recreation opportunities. An integrated design approach with the architect resulted in a family of structures that are seamlessly integrated into the landscape. A 23-foot tall birding tower, a 4,750-square-foot boat house and a 3,800-square-foot central pavilion are a few of the many structures on site. The central pavilion anchors a 1.7-acre event lawn and provides covered space and restrooms. Infrastructure was implemented to support food trucks and vendors to serve a multitude of community and private events such as weddings, farmers' markets, birthday parties and festivals.

A Recreation Destination

Josey Lake Park provides users with the ability to navigate three miles of uninterrupted waterway. The boat house offers canoe, kayak and paddle boat rentals, personal boat storage, concessions and a large deck overlooking Josey Lake.

A Recreation Destination

Low-cost maintenance objectives were an important part of the model for landscape design in the park. Most of the ground plane landscape is native requiring only annual mowing and the manicured portion is limited to the back-of-curb to give a crisp edge. The mix of native grasses includes Sideoats gGrama, Gulf Coast Muhly, Little Bluestem, Indian Grass and Texas Wintergrass.

There are also several outdoor spaces activated with various elements, including a nature playground, ping pong tables, a sculptural fog garden, an amphitheater and a hammock grove. The playground allows children to interact and play in a non-traditional play space. Elevation changes and one-of-a-kind play elements promote climbing and unique interaction with the surrounding landscape.

A Recreation Destination

Interpretive signage is implemented throughout an extensive trail system, consisting of six miles of primary and secondary trails, take takes users through the park where they encounter differing planting typologies. These different plantings include Texas Sedge, Yaupon Holly and Rudbeckia.

Traversing Trails

With nearly six miles of trails and boardwalks, Josey Lake Park connects to other regional trails and adjacent communities, as well as commercial and retail centers. Park users have the option to utilize the trail system to bypass the busy thoroughfare via two pedestrian underpasses. Additionally, an interpretive signage program will be implemented throughout to inform and educate users of the various components of the park and how they fit together to create a symbiotic relationship.

A Recreation Destination

Houston is known for withstanding inclement weather, including heavy flooding; therefore, development in the region requires stormwater detention and responsible planning and engineering. Recent events, like Hurricane Harvey, punctuate this fact now more than ever.

Josey Lake Park connects users to nature, education, culture and recreation while serving as a highly functional, aesthetic and sustainable stormwater detention system. The development of Josey Lake Park offers abundant outdoor recreational access to numerous activities while maintaining a harmonious balance with nature. All of the amenities, the trail system, waterways and types of plantings have been carefully chosen not only for aesthetics but to encourage the conservation of resources, wildlife and provide habitat for the numerous species that visit the area. Through careful planning and intentional design, a stormwater detention facility has been amenitized and programmed to create a recreation destination that focuses on ecology, education and connectivity to benefit humans and wildlife alike.

A Recreation Destination

Concrete boardwalks over the water allows users to observe the diverse aquatic flora that includes Squarestem Spikerush, Great Blue Flag Iris, Common Rush, American White Water Lily and Delta Arrowhead.

A Recreation Destination

At night, the boardwalks are lit with HessAmerica light fixtures until the park closes at 10pm.

Owner and Developer: The Howard Hughes Corporation
Architect: Overland Partners
Landscape Architect: Clark Condon
Structural: Walter P. Moore, BEC Engineers and Consultants, LLC
Civil: Brown & Gay Engineers
General Contractor: D.L. Meacham, LP
Photography: McCurdy Media

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September 21, 2019, 11:29 am PDT

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