Houston and Harris County Break Ground on Sharpstown Park Trail

Houston and Harris County Break Ground on Sharpstown Park Trail
Right to left: David Hawes (managing partner of Hawes Hill); Stephen Le, Jr. (TIRZ #20 secretary, Southwest Management District board member); David Peters (SWMD board member); Harry Shani (SWMD secretary); State Representative Gene Wu; Kenneth Li (SWMD chairman, TIRZ #20 board member); District J City Council Member Edward Pollard; Kenneth Allen (Houston Parks and Recreation Department director); Mayor Pro-Tem Martha Castex-Tatum; U.S. Representative Al Green; Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Lesley Briones; Welcome Wilson, Jr. (TIRZ #20 chairman); Beth White (Houston Parks Board president and CEO); At-Large City Council Member Willie Davis; Alicia Dixon (CenterPoint Energy Director of Community Relations); At-Large City Council Member Julian Ramirez; Charmaine LeBlanc (SCA board member, face hidden by Julian Ramirez); unknown; Susan Rogers (associate professor of architecture at University of Houston); unknown.

One day, you may be able to bike or walk your dog all the way from the Sharpstown Park Golf Course to the far side of downtown Houston.

Theoretically, you’re able to do that now (if you don’t mind walking on broken sidewalks and constantly crossing parking lot entrances and side streets). But it would be much easier with the network of dedicated hike-and-bike trails that the non-profit Houston Parks Board is building with government funding. HPB plans for the network to eventually crisscross Houston—including the Sharpstown area—along bayous and CenterPoint power line corridors.

A section of the partially finished trail network that HPB is building across Houston. Green sections of Bayou Greenway trails are completed; red marks Phase 1 of Sharpstown Trail (under construction); purple marks an under-construction segment of the Brays Bayou Greenway Trail. Image Credit: Houston Parks Board, Feb 2024

That future came one step closer on the mild afternoon of February 26, 2024, with the breaking of ground on Phase 1 of the Sharpstown Park Trail.

Image Credit: Sharpstown Civic Association and Houston Parks Board

A group of twenty people turned over eleven shovels full of dirt in a picture of the collaboration between Sharpstown neighbors and multiple levels of government that made this project a reality.

In 2016, Sharpstown Civic Association board member Charmaine LeBlanc met a group of University of Houston students who were brainstorming ways to improve the Sharpstown area. One of their ideas involved building a trail in the power line corridor along Gessner.

In 2018, the idea came back. Charmaine and other SCA members were picking up trash in the corridor with the help of Sharpstown High and HCU (then HBU) students.

“We were cleaning it up and maintaining it, and we didn’t get any use out of it,” said SCA Operations Manager Scott Gilbert.

Leblanc reopened the book that the U of H students had produced. She thought, "Why can't we have a trail?... The students said we could have a trail."

Sharpstown didn’t have much unused green space—except for the corridor. It belonged to CenterPoint, but in 2014, the company signed an agreement allowing the City of Houston to build bike trails in its power line corridors.

LeBlanc latched onto the idea and got neighbors involved. She also approached Alice Lee, who worked for the Southwest Management District at the time and is now the chief of staff for Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Lesley Briones. LeBlanc credited Lee with helping her secure funding.

Nearly six years later, trail construction is ready to begin. Commissioner Briones has pledged to give $1.5 million, and Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) #20 will provide the other $1.6 million.

What’s the money being spent on? A contract for $2,199,000 was awarded to R Miranda Trucking & Construction LLC in December 2023. Another ~$288,000 will be collected by HPB as their 10% “management fee” for overseeing the project, and another $547,000 is budgeted for “soft costs” like “materials testing” and “programming/design/survey.”

When completed, the trail will join the inventory of the Houston Parks and Recreation Department (the city government branch—not to be confused with the non-profit Houston Parks Board). The Southwest Management District will be responsible for mowing and picking up trash in the trail area.

Claudia Weitinger, Sharpstown resident since 1971, found out one year ago that the trail will run right behind her house. She said many of her neighbors are worried about the trail bringing traffic to their neighborhood, but she’s been trying to convince them that it will bring “good traffic.”

She thinks the trail will “help neighbors meet neighbors…. So often, now, everybody’s inside.” She also thinks it will help keep homeless encampments out of the corridor (there was one recently). She plans on using the new path to walk her dogs.

Phase 1 (Segment 2) of the trail is scheduled to be completed this fall. Phase 2 (Segment 3), which will link Sharpstown Park Trail with the in-progress Brays Bayou Greenway Trail, is awaiting approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Segment 2 (Phase 1) is currently under construction. Segment 3 (Phase 2) is slated to begin next. Image Credit: Cobb Fendley and TIRZ #20