A plan for all seasons
Bridgeland does not take the label “master planned community” lightly. In fact, developers created a road map for the evolution of Bridgeland very early in the community’s history. This blueprint is a multi-layered approach for the placement of residential neighborhoods, a hierarchy of parks and amenities, as well as public and private schools. Additionally, a detailed preservation plan outlines the community’s environmentally conscious approaches to irrigation, energy and wildlife.
Bridgeland is located within and along the eastern boundaries of the Katy Prairie, an environmental gem that has long provided refuge and foraging areas for resident and migratory birds, as well as various mammals, reptiles and amphibians. However, settlers to the area heavily managed the land, converting it for agricultural purposes, including cattle grazing and rice farming. The area eventually became agriculturally barren, no longer fit for growing crops or supporting livestock. In planning the community of Bridgeland, developers wanted to embrace the area’s historic and environmental significance. The result is a multi-faceted and meaningful land use plan that gives careful consideration to the environment and details measures to enhance the surrounding landscape.
This strategy not only builds on the legacy of the Katy Prairie, but also supports widespread environmental initiatives, including the 54-mile Cypress Creek watershed, development of regional recreation spaces and the area-wide transition from groundwater to surface water uses. The conceptual conservation plan focuses on the preservation of the Cypress Creek Corridor and the conversion of two areas into new nature corridors — Central Creek and Langham Creek. Together, these three areas will not only provide passive and active recreational space for residents, but also will serve as part of the community’s infrastructure, with innovative methods for stormwater storage and use, replacing typical trapezoidal ditches with meandering, naturalistic creeks.
These areas also provide educational opportunities for residents, with a comprehensive signage system detailing indigenous plants and animals, flowers to attract butterflies and “smart” landscape components, such as native plantings to minimize the need for frequent fertilization, irrigation and maintenance. The native grasses and flowering, non-grass plants used in Bridgeland’s landscape also reflect the area’s ecological history.
Other environmentally friendly components could include wildlife-friendly structures designed to support the area’s vast bird, bat and butterfly populations, and lighting standards that minimize the negative effects on wildlife, such as using lighting shields in some areas to direct light toward the ground.
Such sensitive planning is resulting in a community that bridges nature with development, ensuring a compatible space for people and wildlife.
Given its size, Bridgeland could have as many as 100 parks upon completion, so developers have put in place a guide for the development of generously sized, compatible parks that maximize the use of available land space. A hierarchy of parks has emerged, with numerous neighborhood parks placed no more than a quarter mile from each homesite, ensuring that recreation space is easily accessible to all residents. Community parks, such as the existing Oak Meadow Park, are larger and offer a multitude of activities for residents. Village parks are even more expansive, serving as community focal points for Bridgeland’s four residential villages. Linking the sites are greenway parks, trails and linear greenspaces connecting neighborhoods and amenities.
Portions of the parklands lie in regional nature corridors, such as the historic Cypress Creek Corridor, and sensitive development of these areas has already started, preserving much of the area in its natural state and ensuring its accessibility to residents. An example of such development, the Cypress Creek Nature Trail, is not only enjoyed by residents, but also remains a haven for the area’s many indigenous animals and the 140 species of birds identified in the area.
The amount of park acreage planned in Bridgeland well exceeds guidelines outlined by the National Parks and Recreation Association, which recommends a half acre of neighborhood park space and 2.5 acres of community parks per 1,000 residents. Bridgeland’s standard is nearly double, with a full acre of neighborhood park space per 1,000 residents and up to 4.6 acres of community parks for 1,000 residents.
Schools: From the Cradle to the Career and Beyond
Bridgeland is ideally placed for the start of a child’s school career, as well as continued education far beyond the last day of high school, with a wealth of educational opportunities just minutes away. Five independent charter schools are nearby and there are 13 private schools — including three high school campuses — within a 10-mile radius of the community. Even nearer are three public Cypress-Fairbanks schools located across the street from Bridgeland’s main entrance. Higher education campuses also are nearby, with Lone Star College just a few miles away. Plus, the Houston area boasts 15 four-year universities and several vocational colleges — including DeVry University just 10 miles southeast of Bridgeland.
While these schools are easily accessible to Bridgeland residents, the development’s master plan calls for even greater community access, with space dedicated to schools within the community. The first of six planned on-site elementaries opened in August 2013, part of the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District. Additionally, two middle schools and one high school are planned for Bridgeland, which is also served by Katy and Waller school districts.
But Bridgeland’s educational landscape will encompass more than just public schools. Already, special-interest classes are held at the Lakeland Activity Center for people of all ages, and, as Bridgeland matures, private pre-school and childcare facilities will open within the community. Consideration also has been given to special-needs students, with potential programs being identified.
Bridgeland was one of the first entities to partner with the Cy-Fair Educational Foundation in its endowment program, pledging funds to establish scholarships for Bridgeland students graduating from Cypress-Fairbanks ISD schools. Bridgeland entered a similar arrangement with the Lone Star College Foundation for scholarships to Bridgeland students attending a school in the Lone Star College System.