One of the most important functions of the Fairfield Municipal Utility Districts (MUDs), consisting of Harris County MUD Nos. 322, 354, 358, 396, and 397, is to provide drainage and detention facilities for the Fairfield community. One of the central drainage and detention features of the Fairfield community is the approximately 400-acre regional detention facility site located south of State Highway 290, and west of Fry Road, just north of Cypress Creek, as generally shown on the above map. The Fairfield MUDs and the Harris County Flood Control District (Flood Control) operate and maintain the property for drainage and detention purposes for the benefit of the Fairfield community. The facilities on the property currently include a regional detention basin, control structure, and approximately 30-acre levee. The property is maintained solely as a drainage and detention facility, and neither the MUDs nor Flood Control has constructed any park or recreational facilities on the property. In addition, the property is not and has never been open for public access.
Over the years, the Fairfield MUDs received reports of isolated incidents of individuals accessing the property for recreational purposes. Starting more than a decade ago, the Fairfield MUDs installed certain fencing, locked gates, and no trespassing signs at known or suspected access points to try to deter trespassing incidents, particularly in light of potential safety risks to residents posed by the levee and associated facilities, and the risk of damage to critical MUD and Flood Control drainage and detention infrastructure. Nevertheless, in early 2020, as more individuals began to spend additional time at home during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the land surrounding the property continued to develop, the Fairfield MUDs began to receive a significantly greater number of reports of trespassing incidents on the property.
In response to these reports, the Fairfield MUDs installed security cameras and worked with the Harris County Constable’s Office, Precinct 4 and the MUDs’ maintenance contractor to enhance security measures and enforcement to prevent unauthorized access to the property and to deter future trespassing incidents. During the course of these efforts, the MUDs discovered that individuals had damaged the property by constructing unauthorized trails, bike ramps, and other facilities on the property. The Fairfield MUDs also experienced theft of security cameras and no trespassing signs on multiple occasions. Repairing the damage and replacing the stolen property cost the Fairfield MUDs thousands of dollars. However, the enforcement efforts have been successful in reducing the number of trespassing incidents.
In late fall 2020, the Fairfield MUDs were approached by a local biking group, which requested that the MUDs consider opening the property for recreational use. The group acknowledged constructing unauthorized trails and bike ramps and accessing the property without permission. They stated they had asked their members to cease unauthorized access to the property, and they requested to partner with the Fairfield MUDs and Flood Control to open the property for recreational use. The Fairfield MUDs also received correspondence from individuals, many of whom were non-Fairfield residents, requesting that the property be opened for public recreational use.
MUDs in Harris County, like the Fairfield MUDs, currently are authorized to construct and maintain parks and recreational facilities. However, MUDs were not granted those powers until the 2000s, well after the Fairfield MUDs were created and began operating. As a result, the agreement between the Fairfield MUDs for the construction and operation of regional facilities like the property provides that the property will be operated and maintained for its intended drainage and detention facility purposes. The agreement does not provide a funding mechanism for the Fairfield MUDs to construct and maintain parks or recreational facilities on the property. This means the Fairfield MUDs each would have to contribute additional funds if any parks or recreational facilities were going to be developed and operated on the property.
The Fairfield MUDs each carefully considered the request to open the property for recreational use. Ultimately, due to significant concerns regarding potential damage to critical drainage and flood control infrastructure, safety, potential liability, and cost, the Fairfield MUDs determined to continue operating the property solely for drainage and detention purposes and to deny the request to open the property for recreational use. Although the Fairfield MUDs understand that parks and recreational facilities can be a beneficial part of any community, the MUDs do not want to take any action that could potentially negatively impact the drainage and detention functionality of the property or increase flood risk. Additionally, due to federal, state, and local regulatory requirements for parks and recreational facilities operated by local governments like MUDs, and the large acreage and rugged terrain of the property, the Fairfield MUDs expect that developing safe, accessible parks or recreational facilities on the property while still protecting the critical flood control infrastructure could be cost prohibitive.
The Fairfield MUDs will continue enforcement efforts to prevent and deter unauthorized access and damage to the property. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation in protecting this important flood control feature for our community.