Unraveling the New Caney $500 Million Dinosaur Theme Park Confidence Game

Schemes for half-billion-dollar eco-resort theme parks are delicate things. To make them happen, it sure helps if everyone believes! Close your eyes and wish it, then: a 500-acre eco-themed, dinosaur-flavored earth science fantasyland, resort, conference center, and retail development just 30 miles northeast of Downtown Houston on Hwy. 59, and just a short drive from Bush Intercontinental airport. Imagine the synergy: Rides, a water park, a museum and scientific institute, ecotourism, a volcano and retreating glacier, shops, restaurants, and shows! Pterodactyls!

But darn, wouldn’t you just figure a ragtag bunch of cynical, self-proclaimed investigating journalist types would get in the way, asking all sorts of annoying questions? Like: How come the East Montgomery County Improvement District has been funneling millions of dollars to various development entities connected to the proposed EarthQuest Resort in New Caney, a hefty chunk of which appears to have been spent on lavish travel junkets for the developers, EMCID officials, and their families — to view theme parks in Las Vegas, Florida, Canada, the Bahamas, Japan, China, and Vietnam? And: How come EMCID officials now claim not to know the current status of the now apparently bankrupt EarthQuest Institute, which for several years listed the EMCID’s address as its own on tax forms, and when the 2 organizations have the same board chairman? And: Who’s even gonna build this thing now that the landowner has declared bankruptcy and the developer won’t show up to community meetings?

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Oh, and one other small question: If the EarthQuest Resort doesn’t get built, how’s the county improvement district going to pay back the $7.6 million in sales-tax revenue bonds it took out in 2009 to pay for pre-development costs on the project?

A frustrating situation to think about, certainly. How about we just keep our focus on the dream, instead? East Montgomery County, this is your future:

EMCID president Frank McCrady continues to insist EarthQuest is “moving forward”; The project’s first phase is now expected to break ground “in 2011 or 2012,” the organization’s website proclaims. Homebuilder D.R. Horton, McCrady says, is buying the land out of bankruptcy. That’ll get it going. Just you wait!

Images: EarthQuest Resort

38 Comment

  • Gus, you left out the part where the County Judge advised the EMCID to stop making outlandish and unsupported claims that there is progress being made and that he is referring public complaints regarding this project to the County DA’s office for investigation.

  • It never had a glacier’s chance in Houston.

  • Got agree with heyzeus. Did anyone really see this thing as plausible – about a year after they shut down AstroWorld?

  • How audacious.

  • and I wanted a new place to play. well, glad it’s not harris county.

  • The artwork is pretty fab.

  • After they get through with milking this one, the principals will turn their attention to what they can squeeze out of the Astrodome.

    Stuff like this is precisely the reason the residents of Harris County should not consider any redevelopment plan for the Dome.

  • look out, gang – if the houston press’s online article is any indication, the angry lunatic con-man behind this whole shamockery will be here any time soon, throwing around words like “malicious” and “slander” when he really means “absolute truth” and “shell game.” Godspeed, New Caney.

  • Once again,another speculative development that generates press fro its promoters and not much else.

  • This sucks!!  I found out out this place a couple of months ago. The concept was awesome. This would have been great for us. A place to play, learn, & give back. I’m sad it’s 1 more thing that’s not going to see the light of day in our city. We really need something to help put us back on the map. 

  • @Matt

    Astroworld has absolutely nothing to do with this park. There is no doubt that Houston can support a theme park. These “developers” for EarthQuest are just incompetent.

  • They laughed at Walt Disney too…but it would be nice for a little common sense and some communication from the EMCID and developer. Wouldn’t you want people supporting your project instead of second-guessing it all the time?

  • Greetings fellow third party defendants form your old friend Soapboxmom. I own the Earthquest Houston Facebook Fan Page and have several threads about this dino disaster on the site I admin for http://www.realscam.com.

    The Earthquest Adventures dubious consultant and CEO of the now defunct Earthquest Institute, Don Allen Holbrook, is suing The Tribune, Cynthia Calvert, Craig Malisow, The Houston Press, The Pahrump Valley Times and me (Soapboxmom) for sharing the facts and our opinions about the behemoth project. And, to top it off he is suing John and Jane Does who dared speak out about him and this dino disaster. We are all third party defendants in the suit that Huber Heights, Ohio has brought against Don Holbrook.

    The problem with Don Allen Holbrook is he just doesn’t understand journalists. His suing everyone on the planet just makes me a gillion times more anxious to dig and research as his desperation to silence everyone tells me there is a lot more to this story. Keep posting folks! You are welcome to the Facebook page and my site, Realscam. Just Google Earthquest or Don Holbrook and keep the conversations going! The truth shall set us all free!

  • @Heather: I lurk on HAIF, and I remember that you had a bunch of things about EcoQuest that other members said were largely inaccurate or wrong.

  • Spirit of 05. The journalists have repeatedly asked Don Holbrook to point out any false statements of fact and he has declined to do so. I was in contact with Don Lessem and numerous others associated with the project. I knew in April 2011 the nut was not being paid on the property, for instance.

    The newspaper articles and my blogs are facts, truth and opinion. Holbrook’s claims of defamation and his conspiracy theories are completely outlandish. Frank McCrady simply did not check him out. The anonymous troll on HAIF did not refute a single fact I presented.

  • http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/dayton-news/sued-developer-files-counterclaim-against-city-1398120.html

    Nothing like more negative publicity. With this, Chris Brown wanting yet another market research study and the new board likely to be much more fiscally responsible, I don’t think Earthquest will be roaring into EMC. At least we can enjoy those fantastic pictures.

  • Too good to be true. Should rename it Fantasy Land.

  • Sounds like a bunch of crooks no wonder it went bankrupt.. to bad it looks like a fun place guess everyone’s right about no way for something this nice in houston area

  • Don Allen Holbrook’s attempt to silence the taxpayers is not going quite like he planned I imagine. The City of Huber Heights that is suing him over the contract between them has motioned to strike the Third-party Complaint against the newspapers and taxpayers commenting or alternatively try it separately or sever it.

    http://www.realscam.com/f11/don-allen-holbrook-iedc-international-economic-development-council-rogue-member-1240/index20.html#post24529

  • Bye, bye Don Allen Holbrook. No funding for Earthquest:

    http://www.ourtribune.com/article.php?id=13812

  • Great the ourtribune link kicked off my virus detector.

  • The EMCID already funded this project to the tune of 20 million dollars. The EMCID does not have to fund the EarthQuest project at this point in order for it to get built. Contour is in control of the project now.

    The last few articles from the Tribune have had some positive indications that Contour is very interested in getting EarthQuest built. Contour is willing to invest in a new study that will be used to find investors. They are also spending the time and the money putting a new business plan in place for the project. This is a big project for Contour, but at least they bring some actual successful theme park developing experience into the mix.

  • Mister X,

    I spoke to Chris Brown personally in January after the news of the bnakruptcy was published by The Tribune. He was excited about raising the funds, but admitted he had no experience with it and that it would be challenging.

    Why don’t you call him and ask how much Contour is committing to the project. A new market research study and paying fundraisers to work on this could run tens or more likely hundreds of thousands of dollars. Please fill us in if you get the scoop!

  • A lot has changed since you talked to Chris Brown in January. This is essentially a new project now and in the hands of new developers. The game is constantly changing. The land issues and Marlin/Atlantis bankruptcy has been settled. Contour is now in control of the design and artistic license for EarthQuest. Contour is now handling site control, option control and intellectual property in regards to EarthQuest. They are spending money on a new market research study and preparing a firm business plan for the EMCID’s approval. The EMCID is not going spend any money on EarthQuest this month and probably won’t until construction is eminent. Chris Brown said in a resent interview (which you supplied on your own webpages) “We are moving forward and are excited the reality of things finally progressing”. In regards to financing for EarthQuest, they are in a better economic climate than they were a year ago which is also a favorable step for the project.

  • I was reallyooking forward to this. I am originally from Houston but now live in NYC. I was hoping this would be a job opportunity for my husband who works on the hotel industry. It would have been great especially since my son loves dinosaurs. Well hopefully something else promising will come up.

  • I hope it falls through and never gets built here.
    I live here and close to it.
    I do not want to hear it every night when I’m trying to sleep.
    The Officials in EMCID should be held accountable for their actions.There was no excuse for this.
    It has been a burdon on the Tax Payers in this area, there are many many of us that are upset with our Officials. It will be seen at the Polls.
    Good luck.

  • So is this going to be built or not? Does anyone have a website we can go to for details if the project is indeed moving forward?

  • plreas inform us wean is coming earthqueaset park new cany roman foreast and 59 south or 69 south please reply by e- mail thanks charania

  • I’m 55 years old with a new granddaugther. Would like to share it with her in my lifetime. Build it and build it now. Get the politics out of it.

  • There are only 8 weeks remaining on the option to repurchase the EarthQuest property lost in bankruptcy. The Stern Bros. & Co. are not responding to inquiries about the progress on securing financing for the project. Is Contour no longer paying them or did they choose to withdraw from the project?

    Why is Frank McCrady of the EMCID not giving updates on the progress on this boondoggle. The taxpayers have already spent millions and must satisfy $21,000,000.00 in bonds in the future. What happened to Don Allen Holbrook who had a hand in every pie and according to McCrady was to be the spokesperson for this perpetually stalled project?

  • In 3 weeks the option to repurchase the property for EarthQuest that was lost in bankruptcy expires. Stern Brothers & Co. is not responding for requests for information about the progress in securing funding for the theme park. Frank McCrady of the EMCID and his designated spokesperson for the project, Don Allen Holbrook, are also silent. Holbrook’s LLCs made a cool 1.2 million off of this boondoggle, and he has touted its success in his books and all over the internet, yet now he is not discussing on the project’s status at this crucial juncture.

    The EMCID meeting days and times were not listed correctly on the Chamber of Commerce site the last several months. Why is Frank McCrady trying to keep these meetings a secret from the taxpayers? The taxpayers are out millions and will have to satisfy $21,000,000.00 in bonds for this deal. Why are there no real answers forthcoming.

  • The taxpayers have spent millions and are on the hook for $21,000,000.00 in bonds that must be satisfied. Don Allen Holbrook’s LLCs made a cool 1.2 million off of that deal. He had his hand in every pie. He even milked a now defunct charity for $185.00 an hour. Serving as CEO and president of a charity set-up to promote a for profit theme park is a gross misuse of tax dollars. It is not a legitimate charitable purpose. Holbrook was brilliant at finding ways to milk this deal.

    The property designated for Earthquest was lost in bankruptcy and the December 15, 2013 deadline to repurchase the property has passed. Holbrook claimed to Pahrump, NV that Contour Entertainment was purchasing the EarthQuest property in May 2011 and groundbreaking would occur by December 2011 or early 2012 to try and convince them to get involved in another one of his destination theme park schemes. He also boldly claimed he had never had a failed project, but rather had 100s of projects worth billions that created 50,000 jobs. Many bloggers and journalists have researched this and found it could not be substantiated. Pahrump has since sent the clown and his pocket lining pipe dream project packing.

    http://www.ourtribune.com/article.php?id=13678 Don Lessem wants his intellectual property rights returned to him after 2013. How is Holbrook going to spin that? What investor is going to get involved with EarthQuest when the intellectual property rights are in question and litigation is quite possible? What investor would be willing to reimburse millions in tax dollars at the inception of a very risky investment (a mega, international destination theme park?)

  • The tax payers have paid for the “DIRECTORS” and their families to go on trips to the Bahamas, Disneyland, Canada and Vegas. The taxpayers also payed for Mr. Holbrook to take these trips and his lodging. Enough is enough.

  • Chris Brown of Contour Entertainment bragged to the media that the foreign investors were to come see the property the first week of May and that the property would be purchased that month. As usual nothing has happened. Another likely fictitious opening date has been offered. Does anyone really think it will ever open, much less in 2017? Why does the media continue to quote Brown as if what he says is factual?

    Holbrook is such as brazen liar he wrote to Pahrump officials that Contour was in the process of buying the property in May 2011 and would be breaking ground on Earthquest by early 2012. When are the lies and misrepresentations going to stop? Once again, it seems these tales were designed to appease angry voters. The fantastic news is that all the incumbents were voted out. Now, when is Frank “The Bank” McCrady going to be fired???

  • http://www.yourhoustonnews.com/cleveland/news/earthquest-looks-forward-to-potential-capital-infusion/article_a6311cf0-035b-57e0-b8d5-f0b94379d3ad.html

    Chris Brown and the mysterious investors did not show as promised. Earthquest will now be taken off of future EMCID agendas until such time as Brown has money and contracts in hand. Earthquest is busted!

    http://www.yourhoustonnews.com/courier/new

  • Judge Sadler’s crystal ball is in good working order. He should admonish the new board to show Frank McCrady the door before another dubious consultant like Don Allen Holbrook waltzes into town and empties the vault again!

    http://www.yourhoustonnews.com/courier/news/earthquest-sinkhole-for-residents-taxes/article_f159b45f-8f68-5a4f-8372-7c78fd3009ee.html