Fort Bend County parks hit hard by drought

18 08 2011

Several birds sit in mud where water has receded from a small body of water in Cullinan Park.

The drought continues in Fort Bend County.  Water systems across the County are beginning to implement restrictions on water usage.  Schools are beginning to implement response measures because of the extreme heat.  In my last entry, I shared information about the problems public works crews are facing as they attempt to maintain asphalt roads as temperatures soar about 100 degrees day after day. Affects are being felt everywhere— agriculture, water systems, ranching, grass fires, roads, and park systems.  This latter item is discussed below.

Below, please find an article written by Cory Stottlemyer, and published by on August 16, 2011. 

According to an Associated Press article from August 14, Texas is currently experiencing the most severe one-year drought on record, and July was the warmest month ever recorded for the state.

This extreme lack of rainfall has caused the death of many flora and fauna at county parks and has even driven down public turnout. Various parks and recreation departments in the county are struggling to find ways to combat the extreme heat yet conserve water.

Dead brown grass is located in the Four Corner’s Recreation Center’s baseball field.












“Our crews are not able to maintain the parks properly because the grass is not growing; lots of stuff are dying,” Leticia Arriaga, Fort Bend County’s Parks and Recreation Coordinator, said. “We have some fish dying in one of our parks. We don’t see any of the animals that we used to see.”

While the summer has killed off some of the mosquitoes that typically plague this area, the county’s parks department has had to be careful watering many areas because they are run on well systems. According to Arreja, this has made landscaping nearly impossible.

“We can’t keep up with the watering of our greenery. A lake in one of our parks has lost about three feet of water. This has been the worst summer for us. A lot of people make reservations for our parks, and a lot of them don’t show up because it’s just too hot,” Arriaga said.

Sugar Land Parks and Recreation Department Assistant Director Joe Chesser said that the city’s athletic fields have been the most difficult to upkeep. Frequent use by sports leagues combined with the dry weather has created large cracks in the ground in parks with mostly clay soil. Landscaping these fields has become difficult for the department to do while also adhering to the city’s voluntary water schedule.

“Even with our sprinkler systems, we rely on mother nature to give us some water, and most summers we’ll at least get those late afternoon showers fairly regularly,” Chesser said. “Even though we’re a city department, we don’t have unlimited access to the water we have. Internally, we budget and pay for a water bill just like anyone else would. We basically used up the allotment in our budget for water in June.”

The city’s voluntary water schedule asks citizens to water no more than twice a week, something the parks department has tried to do. Since the water budget has been depleted, Chesser said cuts have been made in other areas. Frequent waterline breaks throughout the city caused by everything from shifting soil to lawn mowers damaging above-ground sprinklers have made conserving water even more difficult.

Grass at the Four Corner’s Recreation Center’s baseball field is mostly worn away and dead from this summer’s heat.

“We’ve kind of experienced more waterline and irrigation system breaks, and those breaks show up pretty quick when areas aren’t getting water. We’ve got our staff real busy just trying to keep up with the sprinkler systems,” Chesser said. “I wouldn’t say [the sports fields] are in good condition, but they’re in playable condition. They’re not to the level we strive to have them be in, but we’re keeping them green and most of our participants will understand the reason why the fields aren’t as lush as they usually are.”