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Woodlands officials evaluating bids for Bear Branch Park upgrade

Woodlands officials evaluating bids for Bear Branch Park upgrade





Officials with The Woodlands Township are crunching the numbers as they evaluate bids for what will be the first two phases of a multi-million dollar plan to renovate Bear Branch Park and replace its damaged swimming pool.

Initially developed in 1992, the popular 19.5-acre park on Research Forest Drive was later expanded under a 2001 master plan. So with improvements made under that plan, the park, with both its original offerings and additions, now offers children’s play equipment, a teen center, tennis courts, volleyball courts, what is now the community’s largest dog park, an inline hockey rink, basketball courts, a pavilion, concessions, rest rooms, a skate park, other amenities and parking.

The park also has a swimming pool but it was damaged and left unusable during floods last year.

As the township‘s population grew, and use of the park increased, township officials noted it was becoming “readily apparent” there was a need for a new or expanded plan for the park for next 25 years.


Woodlands Parks and Recreation Director Chris Nunes said the Tax Day floods of 2016, which flooded the park‘s pool, spurred the need for a new pool as well as the other improvements.

Nunes said during flooding to the park, the pool “popped” and was not salvageable. The Courier of Montgomery County reported earlier this year that Nunes told township officials during a March 22 Board of Directors meeting that floodwaters also left debris, fish and bacteria in the pool. So, with township officials considering upgrades to the park, plans to replace the pool also had to be included.

During that same meeting that Nunes spoke, according to The Courier, the board also approved a $1.3 million insurance claim that would go toward a new pool.

The township put out bids for the work, with the deadlines for the bids for two of five phases of upgrading the park-Phase I and Phase III-falling on Nov. 2. Those two phases would include a replacement pool, renovation of the bathhouse, landscape improvements and expanding the parking lot,

“We’re still crunching the numbers,” Nunes said Wednesday of the bids that came in. “We’re meeting with the vendors today [Wednesday] and tomorrow [Thursday].”

Nunes declined to say how many bids were received and would not provide dollar amounts of the bids or characterize the range of the bid offers, but said $4.18 million was budgeted for the two phases. Now that the bids are in, township officials are evaluating the offers, with the bid recommendations expected to be made public either Nov. 22 or Nov. 24.

The new recreational pool which will replace the pool that was damaged will have four lanes, a water play feature and a slide will re-incorporate the whale from the former baby pool into the recreational pool, according to Nunes.

“We’re looking forward to getting this pool back into the community by the summer of 2018,” Nunes said.

A larger 50-meter pool, while a part of the overall Bear Branch Park Master Plan, has not been funded at this time, Nunes said.

Although part of the park flooded again during Hurricane Harvey, township officials say it did not swamp the entire park. Concerns about flooding in the park were expressed even before Harvey hit.

Former Board of Directors Member Laura Fillault-who lost her seat on the board after the Nov. 7 election-had asked during a previous township meeting if the pool could be located in a different park, with township President and General Manager Don Norrell saying the community had identified Bear Branch as the best location.

And as township directors discussed the park expansion plans earlier this year, Board of Directors Member Bruce Reiser noted during a meeting last spring that he was concerned about “investing $8 million to $9 million in an aquatics center in a floodplain.”

More recently, Reiser said Wednesday that township officials are considering how to protect a new pool from being damaged by any future floods.

“We are looking at methods for relocation or grade changes that will lift the neighborhood recreational pool out of the 100-year plain, Reiser said last week. “We did have water in the park during Harvey. It did not reach the recreational center, but it might have affected the proposed location for the recreational pool that we are in the process of replacing.”

Board of Directors Member Ann Snyder had also expressed concerns about building a new pool in the park.

“To me, if it’s built correctly, then we need to ensure that what we build takes in mind that some of the events that have occurred to mitigate any foreseeable damage that it [future flooding] it may have caused,” she said last week.


A new replacement pool, including the second, larger 50-meter pool, would be welcome by The Woodlands residents, including the scores of area swimmers who need a place to train, local athletes said.

“Pool time is always in demand in The Woodlands area,” said Stacey Eicks, the president of The Woodlands Masters Swim Team.

The team holds 16 practices a week for its more than 200 members, whose swimming abilities range from novice to world record holders.

“In addition to our team, there are age group U.S.S teams, multiple Summer League teams, multiple triathlete teams, and water polo teams all working together to utilize the limited water currently available,” Eicks said.

A separate swim team with a similar name, The Woodlands Swim Team, could also use a new pool for training for its new members.

“This is a thriving aquatic community,” noted the team’s head coach, Kit Raulerson.

With the Woodlands Swim Team offering a number of swim programs, including a USA Swimming Gold Medal program that is ranked as one of the top five swimming programs in the nation, Raulerson says team members use a number of pools throughout the area.

“We’re one of many renters of township space,” Raulerson said, adding that an additional pool would make more space and time available for swimmers.

Nunes said that the township Board of Directors has also approved the conversion of another pool to a heated pool in 2018 which would allow more use by swim teams and for aquatic programs.


As part of the bidding for improvements on the park, Phase III will also include plans to expand parking by the recreation center, improve entry to the park, add a drop-off lane for vehicles and make other improvements.

The changes would also improve what Nunes termed the “challenge of movement in the park.”

Other phases to the project would include bathhouse upgrades, connecting trails to a sports complex, expanding and renovating the recreation center and other improvements to the park.

“There has been no time line created for the remaining phases of the Bear Branch Park Master Plan,” Nunes added. “The plan will be brought up again in 2018 for the 2019 budget to see if there are elements of the plan that can be funded based on budget priorities.”

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