New Caney residents split over theme park plans

HOUSTON The park, which is set to be built in New Caney, is said to be the only "green" theme park in the world. Even though it will create new jobs and be a boost to the economy, not everyone is happy about the plans.

It's a massive project that will dwarf what Astroworld once was. And while it's expected to provide a boom to the local economy there, some residents are not excited about the growing pains that will come along with it.

Residents in the New Caney area, of east Montgomery County, have heard it's coming. And the billboard is up touting what local officials hope is a global destination theme park.

It's called Earth Quest Adventures. Its three phases include development of more than 1,600 acres, spanning both sides of U.S. Highway 59 at Roman Forest Blvd.

The first phases will develop 550 acres west of 59, which will house the theme park, a hotel, treetop lodging, a water park, dinning and shopping and an Earth Quest Institute Museum.

The second and third phase will move across 59 and include larger national retailers and an eco-friendly subdivision utilizing green technologies. The hope is New Caney, along with having some fun, could lead the way to the next generation home.

"That research done at the institute will then be incorporated into those homes and then those homes all being in that one place," said Frank McCrady with the East Montgomery County Improvement District. "It's like we have a laboratory here in New Caney, Texas to kind of evaluate those new types of products being put into those homes."

But being much larger than Astroworld, some residents say the reason they moved to the area was to escape over developed suburbs of Houston.

"In 10 years, it's going to look just like The Woodlands -- nothing but strip centers and malls," New Caney resident Ronnie Lawson said.

"I imagine it's gonna be pretty rowdy around here, but I know it's going to help the economy," said New Caney resident Sally Brown.

One area both sides agree on is the economic impact to this rural area.

The first phase is to bring in around 2,000 jobs. Over a 10 year period, research estimates about 17,000 jobs.

"There are so many unemployed, that I think that would be the good thing," Brown said.

Plans to begin the first phase of construction are slated to begin at the end of this year or the beginning of 2011. The project will take about two years to complete and is expected to open in 2013.

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