Trails as Critical Infrastructure: Building Community Resilience in Post-Harvey Houston

The widespread damage to the Houston’s neighborhoods following the Hurricane Harvey underscored the role that parks and trails can provide as a critical infrastructure for community health and resilience. The Park-Smart Precinct 1 Plan, an 18-month planning effort launched just a month before the hurricane hit, is helping to identify a strategy for prioritizing investments in park and trails as necessary infrastructure in Harris County Precinct 1 which includes many of the most vulnerable communities in the Houston.

31997875_parksmartharris_precinct1_parkneed_20171109As Houston rebuilds from the impact of Hurricane Harvey and prepare for the next catastrophic rain event, the creation of new parks and trails has become an increasingly important tool for community resilience. Efforts such as Bayou Greenways 2020 and Beyond the Bayous led by the Houston Parks Board have established a transformative framework for reimagining Greater Houston’s open space system. Launched just a month before the hurricane hit, the Park-Smart Precinct 1 Plan represents a proactive application of these efforts within Harris County Precinct 1. While the 18-month equity-driven initiative, funded by the Houston Endowment and led by the Trust for Public Land, in partnership with the Houston Parks Board, was already focused on providing new park and trail resources to many underserved communities, the consequences of the hurricane damage on Houston’s neighborhoods brought the mission of the project into sharper focus. Parks and trails are one of the best investments for communities struggling to stabilize in the face of mounting social and environmental pressures. With Precinct 1 including many of Houston’s most vulnerable communities, the Park-Smart Precinct 1 Plan was conceived as a way to better guide critical investment in new parks and trails. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the project reassessed the meaning of community resilience, the broader value of parks and trails, and is currently working to establish a new framework of how to prioritize investment in parks and trails that is highly tailored to the needs of Precinct 1 residents.


Eric Leshinsky is a Senior Associate and co-leads the Urban Ecology studio for Asakura Robinson, an integrated landscape architecture, planning, and urban design firm. Based in Austin, TX, he maintains an active interest in regional ecological issues and often seeks out opportunities for projects that can help reframe the relationship between cities, communities, and their natural landscapes. In the last 10 years, he has designed or planned open space projects at a range of scales from neighborhood parks to regional trail systems, as well as mixed-use developments with integral open space features. Eric has held teaching positions at the University of Houston, George Washington University, Morgan State University, Delaware College of Art and Design, and the University of Maryland. In 2011, he was an Artist in Residence at the University of Houston Mitchell Center for the Arts where he co-founded the regional cultural initiative Shrimp Boat Projects. Eric is the recipient of grants from the Creative Capital Foundation (2012) and the Baltimore Creative Fund (2010). He holds a B.A. in Political Science and Economics from Columbia University and received an M.Arch from the Rice School of Architecture in 2006.


Amy Morris is Associate Director of Planning at The Trust for Public Land. She manages complex community-based planning projects including regional conservation, trail, and park plans. She specializes in working with diverse partners to build community consensus and in facilitating and analyzing a wide range of community input from small focus groups to large online surveys. Before coming to The Trust for Public Land, Amy was a Senior Associate at Aspen Environmental Group, a consulting firm where she worked on environmental impact analyses for renewable energy and transportation infrastructure projects t. Amy has a PhD in environmental studies from UC Santa Cruz, and a BA in environmental biology from Columbia University. She has published peer-reviewed and law review articles on conservation easements, renewable energy policy, and endangered species mitigation. She is based in San Francisco, California.


Charles H. Place, AIA, has over 30 years of experience directing large-scale land development projects. For the last 13 years, his career has focused on urban parks, including directing the planning and design of Brooklyn Bridge Park and capital projects for the New York City Region of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. For the last three years, Chip has served as the Managing Director of Capital Programs for the Houston Parks Board where he is responsible for land acquisition, design and construction of Bayou Greenways 2020, which will create a 150-mile network of linear parks along Houston’s major waterways. Chip graduated from the Rice University School of Architecture and the University of Houston Law Center.

58976829_amar_mohite_photoAmar Mohite is the Director of Planning & Infrastructure for Office of Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis. He leads the development and coordination of transportation and infrastructure projects for Precinct One. Mr. Mohite is a 2002 graduate of Texas A&M University Urban and Regional Planning Program and previously lead the Transportation Planning Division with the City of Houston’s Planning & Development Department. Mr. Mohite has managed & coordinated on a range of planning and transportation projects, studies and development of ordinances inclusive of the City of Houston’s Transit Corridor Ordinance, Complete Streets Policy, Major Thoroughfare & Freeway Plan and the Houston Bike Plan.


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