Please click here for a digital copy of our 2015 Open Space Master Plan document.
Click here to view the 2015 Rockwall County Open Space Master Plan created by Verdunity/WRT for the Rockwall County Commissioners Court.
After many months of study, research, community workshops, and meetings with city staff and mayors, our final draft of the Open Space Master Plan is ready for final community review and input. The consultant team of Verdunity and WRT was hired by the Rockwall County Commissioners Court with the recommendation of the Rockwall County Open Space Alliance’s Executive Committee to provide the court and the citizens of Rockwall County with an actionable plan to guide the county and its cities in preserving open spaces throughout the county.
“Open space” can mean parks, bike & hike trails, natural areas, preserved cultural and historic areas, community amenities, and much more. This plan meshes the online and steering committee surveys with the existing park and trail plans from the cities of Rockwall County and makes strategic and tactical recommendations for us to move forward with.
At the final community meeting held on December 1, 2015, the plan’s highlights were presented and discussed. You can find the presentation from that meeting here.
You can find a pdf of the Rockwall County Open Space Master Plan here. Public comments are welcome through Sunday, December 13th. Please send them to email@example.com.
Thank you in advance!
Covering only 147 square miles, it’s a well-known fact that Rockwall is the smallest county in Texas. Residents also recognize that the last half of the 20th century has brought many changes to this historically agricultural area. Its desirable location outside the ever-growing Dallas metropolitan area also brings growth.
For a small group of volunteers, there is a heightened awareness that the County stands to lose the very things that attracted residents in the first place: green spaces, rural character, and traditional way of life. As development and demand for housing grow, they believe the people of Rockwall County must decide whether to protect and preserve the county’s natural heritage.
This was the situation facing the Rockwall County Open Space Alliance (RCOSA), a coalition of representatives from the Cities of Heath, Royse City, Fate, Rockwall, Rowlett, and McLendon-Chisholm, and the unincorporated parts of Rockwall County. Feeling the urgency to this mission as greenbelts disappeared, they asked the Rockwall County to develop a master plan to coordinate open space on a countywide level.
In late 2014, the Rockwall County Commissioners Court contracted with the planning team Verdunity/WRT. After several months of intense work including onsite visits, a survey of county residents, and two public meetings, a first draft of the Open Space Master Plan is nearing completion and will soon be available for comment. An additional public meeting will be scheduled in the near future.
To learn more about the meeting or participate in an online discussion about open space needs and priorities, visit www.rockwallosa.org, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The latest information can be found on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/rockwallopenspace.
At our recent Community Workshop, one of the graphics showed the option of a lakefront trail in Rockwall. This was included based on responses to a survey of county residents.
Since the lake and take line area around the lake are owned by the City of Dallas, there are legal and contractual issues that make such a trail impossible. The leadership of the Rockwall County Open Space Alliance takes the position that this impossible option should not have been shown, regardless of the survey.
We apologize for any confusion this action has caused and wish to assure residents along the take line that there is absolutely no intention to pursue this course.
Rockwall County Open Space Alliance
One of the three primary goals for the Open Space Master Plan is to identify opportunities and recommend implementation strategies to preserve storm water corridors. Preservation of natural drainage ways is essential for flood control and wildlife, but there are some other benefits that can be captured by planning development strategically in and around these areas.
First and foremost, there are fiscal and economic development benefits for property owners as well as the local governments. Numerous studies and real estate reports are showing that properties that include or abut quality open space are worth an average of 30% more than those that do not have access to open space. Well-designed open space can also reduce the number and size of dry detention basins and underground vaults, and can aid in mitigating pollution in our creeks and streams. Utilizing and enhancing the storm water management capacity within the county’s open spaces and stream corridors can alleviate burdens placed on single site development projects to manage runoff volumes on site, and it can help reduce the size of storm water infrastructure such as culverts and underground pipes, saving cities money in long-term maintenance costs. Regional storm water controls in and adjacent to existing floodplains combined with strategic implementation of green infrastructure approaches such as bioswales helps slow storm water runoff down, reducing erosion impacts and helping to filter out pollutants.Finally, there are recreational and educational benefits that can be captured by providing citizens access to these spaces. When combined together as stacked functions, these types of open spaces can provide tremendous financial and environmental value while also saving cities and taxpayers money over time in reduced maintenance.
Rockwall County and its municipalities have a great opportunity to explore policy options that will protect and preserve the abundance of riparian corridors that meander through all parts of the county. There are seven watersheds within the county, each with varying levels of development and each featuring unique natural and constructed drainage systems. A few of the watersheds fall completely within the jurisdiction of a single city, but the majority of them cross multiple city boundaries and/or unincorporated parts of the county. There are also 27 lakes that are part of the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) system, which are dams that were built in the 1950s and 1970s to assist in flood protection and erosion control, provide water supply to service agriculture use, and to provide fish and wildlife habitat. A few of these are publicly owned, such as Cameron and Phelps Lakes, while others are on private property. These ponds serve as valuable amenities but they were not designed to manage the increased storm water runoff that results from urban and suburban development. Some of the dams are approaching the end of their original design life, and will require maintenance in the near future in order for them to continue to function effectively. The County just authorized funds last month to make maintenance improvements to one of these dams, so this maintenance cycle is already starting. Other counties have also taken advantage of early planning to combine maintenance efforts with trails and other amenities to maximize the benefits for citizens. One example of this is the Adriatica development in McKinney.
Part of our team’s scope for this project is to review the floodplain and storm water management practices of the County and each of the cities, and identify opportunities to coordinate storm water management and green infrastructure implementation strategies throughout the watersheds. The first priority is the preservation and enhancement of existing natural corridors. The second priority is the retrofitting of existing systems that are already impacted by encroaching development with a focus on enhancing these community areas while seeking to improve the environmental performance of the systems. By planning open space strategically and coordinating efforts between developers, the cities, the county, and the various state and federal regulatory agencies, the county can minimize land impacts, save money on maintenance, and enhance property values and quality of life for current and future residents of the county.
Kevin Shepherd is a Rockwall resident and co-founder of VERDUNITY, the consulting firm leading the Open Space Planning effort. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Getting input from the citizens of the community is an important part of any planning effort. The public input process for the County’s open space initiative started with surveys that were done back in 2008. In that survey, citizens expressed an interest in preserving floodways and natural habitats, improving off-street trail connections, and identifying options for a central public space amenity that all county residents could enjoy. The Rockwall County Open Space Alliance (RCOSA) was formed in 2011 by a group of citizens who are passionate about preserving open space and providing opportunities for current and future residents to enjoy nature for educational, recreational and quality of life benefits. In over 20 years of doing planning and engineering work, I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a group of citizens who are as committed to their cause as the RCOSA Executive Committee. We are lucky to have Bob DeJean, Nell Welborn, Becky Burkett, Charlie Pratt, and Dale Morgan serving our county and communities!
Our Open Space Master Plan project kicked off back in January with an informational public meeting. We discussed some of the challenges facing Rockwall County as it continues to be one of the fastest growing areas in Texas and the country, and some of the ways well-planned open space can add value to communities. Over 70 people attended the meeting, despite poor weather and icy road conditions.
In April, we conducted an online survey to get additional input from county residents. The survey asked citizens what they like about current parks, trails and public open spaces in the county. It also asked people what types of open space related activities they leave the county for, and what they would like to see more of in the county as it develops. Here are some of the key takeaways from that survey:
- Nearly 600 people responded. Responses were received from all 6 cities in the county and residents of unincorporated areas.
- Over 95% believe it is important to have quality open space to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and that this open space is important to quality of life in Rockwall County.
- 54% of respondents said the condition of existing open/recreation space is either excellent (6%) or good (48%).
- 14% said public access to open space was sufficient, while another 59% said it was sufficient, but could be improved. 27% said it was insufficient, citing lack of walkable or bikeable connections.
- Walking/running trails, nature trails and off-street bicycle trails were the most important activities people were seeking public open space for. When asked to rate how well needs were currently being met (on a scale of 1-5), walking/running trails averaged 2.9, nature trails 2.44 and off-street bike trails 2.34.
- Frequently visited spaces in the county included neighborhood parks, Harry Myers and Squabble Creek. A number of people commented that they enjoy walking or biking around their neighborhood park, but that if they want to walk or ride longer distances, those trails and connections are lacking. Comments were also received that Harry Myers and Squabble Creek are often over-crowded, indicating more facilities like these in other parts of the county would be desirable.
- The majority of existing open space opportunities are in the western portion of the county in Rowlett, Rockwall and Heath. Residents of Fate and Royse City expressed an interest in having more neighborhood parks and trails, as well as trail connections to Harry Myers and downtown Rockwall.
- A significant number of citizens indicated that they were unsure where existing parks, trails and public spaces in the county were located.
- Open space facilities that respondents frequently leave the county for included White Rock Lake, Katy Trail, Dallas Arboretum, Klyde Warren Park and the Heard Museum.
- Many comments were made about the need for more athletic fields or passive park areas where youth sports teams can practice. (Note: this project is not focusing on athletic facilities, but will identify opportunities for more public open spaces with flat field areas that can be used for practices and other types of informal sport activities.)
- Preferred activities for a centralized open space in the county included trails, picnic facilities and nature appreciation/education.
- 78% believe County residents would benefit from a county-wide trail system. Another 16% felt it would be beneficial, but should be done by the individual cities.
The survey results have been shared with all of the cities, and discussions have been ongoing regarding coordinating the County Open Space Plan with the current and future plans each of the cities have for floodplain preservation, parks and trails.
The next step in the public input process is the community workshop coming up on July 15th. The workshop will be a hands-on open house style meeting where attendees will be able to learn more about the existing parks, trails and public open spaces already available throughout the county and review the results of our team’s analysis. Attendees will also be asked to help identify and prioritize potential open space opportunities and off-street trail corridors. This input will be used along with conversations with property owners in potential opportunity areas to guide the development of the final plan and implementation program.
Thank you to everyone who has taken time to provide input thus far. If you haven’t engaged in this effort yet, I encourage you to attend the meeting on July 15th. Preserving and connecting quality open spaces throughout the county is critical to maintaining property values, recruiting and retaining businesses and residents, and providing ample opportunities for residents to enjoy active and passive recreation activities. Take advantage of this opportunity to express your interests, ideas and concerns!
Kevin Shepherd is a Rockwall resident and co-founder of VERDUNITY, the consulting firm leading the Open Space Planning effort. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a recent article in the Business section of the Dallas Morning News, the reporter notes many examples of new uses of open space in master planned communities – uses such as community gardens, space for a neighborhood farmers market, and many trails and other open space amenities. Read the article here if you haven’t already read it through other means, and give us your feedback.
What do you think? Should the developers that are coming into Rockwall County consider these new types of amenities in their concept plans?
Nell Welborn, Vice Chair of our OSA Executive Committee, Becky Burkett, Executive Committee Member, Commissioner Cliff Sevier, and our consultant from Verdunity, Kevin Shepherd, attended a highly informative meeting with many members of the area and state water and resources boards and commissions to gain insights into how we might incorporate stormwater management, stream water quality, regional detention systems, and more in our master planning process. Representatives from NCTCOG, US Army Corps of Engineers, Texas Water Development Board, NTMWD, Natural Resources Conservation Service, TCEQ, and TP&W were in attendance and gave great insights into our county’s watersheds. Did you know that we have three distinct watersheds running through Rockwall County? ,
The online citizen survey is now online, ready for your input. The survey has 21 questions and should take around 10 minutes to complete. We’re going to keep the survey open through April 10th. At your convenience, please click the link below to take the survey yourself, and share the link with your networks. Before taking the survey, I’d encourage you to review the 2008 Rockwall County Open Space Goals & Finance Assessment study which includes a summary of community input received via telephone and online surveys. The goal of this survey is to begin focusing in on the specific types and locations of improvements that people want.
We look forward to seeing all the responses and gaining new insights into what the citizens of Rockwall County want! Please share this survey with your friends and networks and help us get as much feedback as we can to help guide our goals and challenge our assumptions.
Take the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RockwallCountyOSMP
How Parks Can Guide Regional Development – Sustainability: Community
Parklands of Floyds Fork Manages Louisville’s Largest Watershed
What a great success story and a national leader in open space planning! We encourage you to read this great article about how parks can guide regional development from a recent Sustainable City Network: Community online post. It focuses on how the Parklands of Floyds Fork manages Louisville, Kentucky’s largest watershed.
This is but one method that can be used to manage and protect our watersheds in Rockwall County. What do you think? Give us your thoughts here or online at our FaceBook page www.facebook.com/rockwallopenspace.
Here are a couple of new remarks we have received through our Discussion email link. What do you think?
1. I feel that we should work towards having safe sidewalks/paths throughout the city. As small as we are, I should be able to run errands by foot or bicycle. It’s not safe as is. I fell that should be a priority… And what a wonderful health promotion for our community. Fewer vehicles and traffic!
2. I would love to see Rockwall have a movie in the park evening.
Also, I would like see some safe areas for ducks. rabbits and wildlife to have for nesting. To promote growth of the wildlife around the lake, and find a balance between perservation and growth, now before we no longer can.
3. Far too much of our county is being converted to residential and/or commercial developments. What once was agricultural land is too-easily being re-zoned to add more “roofs” with the misguided idea that more rateables should trump over quality of life. The attraction of settling down in a bucolic, rural community that once existed in our county is rapidly evaporating. Unless wiser heads prevail and adopt a plan that puts us back on the right track, all tracts will begin to look like another Plano.
4. Hey, thanks for getting people together. As a professional artist and Chef turned food blogger, I would love to see places for plein air painting and most of all, would love to have spots all over the county for community gardens. My focus as a Chef and food blogger is creating recipes from In-Season Fresh fruits, veggies, grains and proteins. I always recommend organic when possible.
Let us know by commenting below what your thoughts are on these ideas from readers. Thank you in advance!