Sunday, August 29, 2010

Woodlands Park Rules and Guidelines

Every Woodlands Texas park has rules posted. Some are particular to a special type of park and others are generalized for the park system here. There is good reason to have these rules. Let's say for example, you want to take your dog to a dog park. There are alpha dogs and highly protective dogs - for their master and for their toys. No one wants to step in dog waste. So there are consistent rules for dogs in all the parks. If you use the park, you must clean up behind yourself. Some people say "this is just common sense". I would agree, but some people don't seem to have that sense or if they do, they lack respect for other people rights to enjoy the park as found by the disrespectful person.

A few key items to note
1. Dusk is not dark. It is before dark. If you have to use a flashlight to see, you should not be in the park period! People live adjacent to parks and ponds. Keep them in mind. They will likely be the ones reporting you to the authorities should you be in viewing distance of their home or making noise. Privacy of residents is important. Please respect that.
2. Trash in our ponds kill fish. Please do not leave plastic bags or other trash on the banks. They often get into the water and kill fish. Trash in our parks is also an an unsightly and health hazard nuisance. Our community does not appreciate your trash. In fact, often it is a resident that has to pick up after you, not a paid contractor. This community is rich in assets but not is spending power, so it does not spend a lot of money on maintenance. That is the responsibility of the visitors to our parks.  Please pick up after yourself and carry out everything that you carried into the park. I admire those people who pick after others in addition to themselves. They don't particularly want to do it, but they have an appreciation of beauty and cleanliness. If your want to distribute your trash into our park, you are not welcome in the park.
3. Rowdiness to the point of aggravating other visitors in the park is also not appreciated. Just be courteous to others and understand they came to appreciate the outdoors and nature the park affords. Sounds of creatures such as birds and the tranquility of nature are reasons people are in the parks. Excessive noise is not appreciated.If you play music on some electronic device, play it for yourself, not the park.
4. People appreciate seeing children and families in the parks. They also appreciate pets as long as the owner takes responsibility for cleaning up behind the pet and the pet is not a threat to their family or pet. Leashes are required! Doggie bags are required. There are biodegradable bags that can be purchased from various sources. The Parks department here provides bags from Dogipot. Website
5. Dog parks have a different set of rules. Your dog should have its shots. There are serious diseases that can be passed from one dog to another.  Protect your dog by keeping its shots up to date. Keep aggressive dogs on a leash until they get to know the other dogs. Sometimes a dog is not suited socially to mix with others and should never be released to mix with other dogs. Do not let your aggressive dog harm another person's dog. You are liable for what your dog does, not the park system. That dog is part of their family.
6. If you are a vendor, you must have a permit to sell your goods on public property in The Woodlands. This particularly applies to food and drink vendors.
7. Honor designated parking locations. Do not park on the grass! Do not park on prohibited locations on streets. Chances are that you will be reported by local residents. If you don't know where to park, ask anyone you may see or call the parks department.
8. Ponds have special rules. You can fish the ponds, but must return the fish back to the water to live.  This is enforced. Fishing is defined as placing bait on a hook attached to a line for the exclusive purpose of hooking a fish and bringing it to shore. Net fishing is generally not allowed, although the park rangers allow nets for catching bait fish. Ponds are small and the community expects to not have to repopulate the ponds at a cost to the community. A Texas fishing license is required on all public ponds and lakes.1 Please be aware that Texas Game Wardens are not generally enforcing this on The Woodlands bodies of water, so there are differing statements regarding this regulation, but the regulation is clear. I advise conforming to the regulation rather than depending on local and possibly temporal interpretation of law. State fines are fairly stiff. Fishing for keepers is allowed in Lake Woodlands and the reservoir; these rules are enforced by the Woodlands Park Rangers.  Keeping fish is also allowed when extracting fish from private stocking for events such as the catfish stocking of Creekwood Park for children twice a year. Fishing from non-motorized boats in Lake Woodlands and the reservoir is allowed. Trolling motors are not considered a motor for this purpose. Keep the wake of your boat non-existent. Kayak fishing is encouraged on Lake Woodlands and the reservoir. Kayaks are rented by The Township for recreation that includes fishing. Refer to the related article. 2  Also, it is a good idea to honor the little known state regulations on turtles and frogs. Taking turtles from the ponds is regulated by state hunting laws. A hunting license is required to take turtles or frogs from public waters, even on private property.1   
9. Alcoholic beverages are allowed in the major parks, but keep in mind that drunkenness on public property is not allowed and violators will likely be prosecuted. In little neighborhood parks, alcohol is not allowed.
10. Vegetation in public parks is the property of The Woodlands Township. Unless you have permission to do so, do not cut or change the vegetation for any reason. For those who want to help care for pathways or parks, you can contact the township for what you may or may not do.
11. Pavilions may be rented but you must make reservations in advance.  Park facilities are also available for use by small businesses but you must have a permit or contract to do so.    

Park Rules published by The Woodlands Township(click here)
Park Regulations and legal authority of The Woodlands Township(click here)
1Texas Parks and Wildlife Website Summary of Fishing and Hunting Regulations
2Riva Row Boat House Commentary article

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Marsh Experience in The Woodlands Texas

There is one amenity in Cochran's Crossing that is very unique in The Woodlands. It is part of Shadowbend Park but is isolated from the rest of the park by Lake Woodlands Dr. This sits on a pond and was designed to retain the marsh that is prevalent in the Southeast Texas piney woods.
 On this particular morning, there were mothers strolling with their babies, young parents out with a child, elderly people walking for exercise and others running or walking their dogs. After crossing the street, one finds this bridge at the nearest point from Shadowbend Park. Stop at the bridge to find turtles and an occasional snake. This is a bog of the marsh. Keep going and you will find the entrance to the Marsh Experience.
The boardwalk will take you over the marsh adjoining the pond. On a hot summer day, this was dry but after rains, this area typically contains a wetland. As you walk along the boardwalk, you will follow a self instructional tour of the marsh. 
There is an attempt to have several plants of the same species  behind each sign.  I noticed this in several cases but it was not consistent.

It may be difficult to sort out some of the material since part of it is seasonally dependent.

I think you would agree that this is a tranquil and beautiful place. Sometimes I find fishermen out on the boardwalk but not on this day. In the Fall this can be spectacular.
There was one gentleman on the boardwalk with me, getting his morning exercise.

There were no creature except a turtle to behold on the warm day. It was too late in the morning, but the forest does yield small animals in the night and very early morning.

On one side of the boardwalk is the pond. You can find bass and blue gill perch in this water. 

Then from the pond to the north, the marsh is sometimes wet and other times dry. Bogs remain all year long.

Unfortunately we have an unwanted species in some of our parks and as far as that goes, this tree exists in private yards as well.   This highly invasive tree species is the biggest threat to out prairies and forests. It was introduced to the United States in the early 1900's and is quickly consuming our  lands. The Chinese Tallow is banned from being sold at nurseries now, but the harm has already been done. One mature tree produces 500,000 seeds a year and also propagates by its roots.  A root serves as a propagating "runner" just below the soil surface. It's seeds are not useful to birds' nutrition and in fact displace nutritious food, possibly making weaker seed-eating birds in the ecosystems of the western world. This tree needs to be eradicated from the ecological systems of our public forests and private lands.

Getting there:
Simply go to Shadowbend Park and park your automobile. It is also accessed from the pathway system. Then cross Lake Woodlands Dr and you are there.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Shadowbend Park in The Woodlands Texas

Shadowbend Park in Cochran's Crossing of The Woodlands Texas is one of the cornerstones of the park system in south Montgomery County. It has two major components - the park itself with normal Woodlands amenities and the Marsh Experience, across the street from the village amenity park.  This is a major park of The Woodlands, characterized as a village park. You will notice the sign above on Lake Woodlands Dr that leads one to the parking areas.  If you wish to use the tennis courts, parking would be closest where the sign points. Otherwise, there is considerably more parking spaces in the next parking lot which is general parking for the swimmin area and recreational areas of the park. 
Two pairs of tennis courts are separated by a small pavilion for snacking and personal belongings. As other parks, this has one court for an individual to practice. 
In the main section, the remainder of the amenities are located. 
Swimming Pool at Shadowbend
Kiddie pool

Pavilion at Shadowbend Park
Children play area
This park is middle aged, and it has a great deal of vegetation, including nice tall trees of various species. The pool and the pavilion are equivalent to the other village parks. Personally, I do like the trees here, so it has a special place in my priorities.

Children play area

In 1991, funding from the Texas Parks and Wildlife helped create this park.  This is is the primary reason that our parks are generally public parks. Note the tax entity involved in this project. Other parks were funded by state or federal grants as well.

This time capsule is an interesting point of history in The Woodlands.

Click any photo to see a full screen view.

Summertime flowers
We will walk across Lake Woodlands Dr in the next article to see the pond and the swamp vegetation. 

Getting there:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Windvale Park

A significant Alden Bridge village park found on the north side of SH 242 in The Woodlands Texas is Windvale Park.  It is one step down from a Village Park due to its size, but it is a nice park! There are some interesting aspects of this park that makes it special.
Special picnic area
This spacious green area next to the park gives the visitor a sense of openness. It is a very good area for a jog along pathways integrated with the park itself.
There is water here with associated wildlife.
Pathway between park and green area
The pavilion here is large.
Swimming pool
Children's play area
More children equipment
Tennis courts - 2

Alden Bridge Park

A major park in The Woodlands Texas, Alden Bridge deserves your visit. It is a beautiful park with an abundance of water. I've been told it is not the best fishing place around, but one can fish there. I saw teenagers net fishing. That can never be good for the fish population!The swimming amentity is placed next to the large pond that spans Alden Bridge Rd, the main artery in the Village of Alden Bridge.
The tranquil feel of the scenic views around the lake, even though the park is so very close to the main road, provides the visitor a calming early morning place to relax with a cup of java and/or a walk in the park. Notice the twin pavilions and their location. This is facing southwest from behind the swimming pools facility.
Twin pavilions
Abundant parking is available through three entries from the main road. Parking spaces are shared with a church next door.
Like almost all of The Woodlands parks, a creek passes through it. The parks are generally located on land that is unsuitable for commercial locations or residences due to flooding risk.  This creek is dammed up to create the pond or really it is a lake.
This view of the creek is on the east side of the road passing from the lake onward.
Walking back from the east side of the road, you can see part of the park and the beauty of the bridge built from masonry bricks. One of the things I noticed about this park is an excellent integration of the pathways that blend in with the park. Notice the pathway bridge in this photo. 
Similar to all major parks, this swimming facility is beautiful, clean and has a great pool house. On this hot Sunday afternoon in August, several families were getting their respite from the heat.
Volleyball court
Soccer field
On this day, the volleyball court was open for someone to play, as well as the soccer field.
Tennis courts - 4 of them


Getting there:

GPS coords:
30.210163, -95.514708
Located on Alden Bridge Rd near Green Gables Cr. If coming from Research Forest Dr, turn left (west) into the park, not right.