Neighborhood residents seek safer alternative after bridge is torn down

By Rose-Ann Aragon - Reporter

MISSOURI CITY, Texas - Missouri City residents in the Fonmeadow subdivision said they feel "stuck" after a bridge connecting their homes to their neighborhood playground and pool was torn down without a replacement plan.

Now, residents are worried over safety concerns since the bridge is no longer there.

"I feel like we are forgotten about over here," said resident Jessica Swain, a mother of four.

She said her children used to go to the park almost every day to play. The family is one of many who live in a subdivision divided by a bayou that is owned by the Harris County Flood Control District.

"This is no man's land here. Missouri City pretends that we don't exist here. The people who live in this subdivision have a mailing address through a Houston post office. The children go to Houston schools but this is technically Missouri City," said longtime resident Bruce Zaborowski. "We need a bridge here in Fonmeadow to connect this community, and (neither) Missouri City nor Harris County want to address the issue."

"I haven't been able to take my daughter to the other side for more than a year," said Lourdes Merendez.

“When it was torn down and inaccessible, my kids definitely understood that we don’t have that access—they felt that,” said Swain.

Swain’s 8-year-old daughter Kai Collins sees the park across the bayou every day. She said she misses her play time.

“Anytime we were bored, we just always walked across the bridge and played at the park, and it brought some good memories,” said Collins who stood at the edge of the bayou with her three brothers and sisters.

Missouri City officials said that they have been discussing the issue.

City Manager Anthony Snipes said the city tried hard to work with Harris County to tear down the bridge for purposes including improving "channel flow" and issues of safety that residents brought to the city's attention.

"(The old bridge) was dilapidated. It was ready to fall," said Zaborowski.

Last year, the county and the city tore down the bridge, but did not replace it.

Snipes said the bayou was Harris County property. According to Snipes, one of the main reasons why the bridge was not replaced was that the developer of the property put in the bridge, and he said it was the homeowners association's responsibility to replace it. Snipes also said the city was very reluctant to use public money to put up a bridge that benefited people who lived in private residences.

But the families in Fonmeadow say it is an issue of safety, the same reason why they believe the bridge was torn down.

"During school time, you will see kids crossing through this creek way to get home because otherwise they would have to walk," said Swain.

“They agreed a year ago to remove the bridge because it was a safety hazard, now it’s even more of a hazard with kids climbing through the bayou over here,” said Zaborowski.

Channel 2 measured on route to the other side of the bridge from their homes. Each route takes drivers outside city limits. It was 1.5 miles long. Residents worried that even that distance is too much for children to walk alone.

“Right now, the only way the children have to get to our playground is to drive to another subdivision almost a mile and a half, or even worse, go into the city limits of Houston to get to the other part of Missouri City,” said Zaborowski. “This is unacceptable.”

Harris County officials said while they own the land of the bayou, it is the city’s responsibility to maintain bridges on unincorporated property. The city said it’s the HOA’s responsibility, but if it were to build something, it would have to ask permission from the county, since it’s county property.

Ultimately, residents said, they hope someone can do something to help the families in the neighborhood.

"Anything that can be done, we'll appreciate it," said Merendez.

“Children can get hurt crossing through there,” said Zaborowski. “Sometimes the water might be high. Right now its dry low, but when we have heavy rains, this bayou fills up quite a bit—more than three quarters of the way up during a heavy rain.”

For 8-year-old Kai, it would be a dream.

“I found it way easier to just walk across the bridge,” said Collins.

Channel 2 tried to contact the Fonmeadow property officials, but have not heard back. Harris County officials said it is studying the situation and would look into whether it would make a recommendation to replace the bridge. They said nothing has been set in stone.

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