Where the Sidewalk Goes Private in Cinco Ranch

A regular Swamplot reader has a question about the sidewalk on the south side of Cinco Ranch Blvd. as the street passes between retention ponds for the North Lake Village and South Lake Village neighborhoods, just west of Cinco Lakes Dr. (map here). “The sidewalk exists on the south side of the street block from Peek Rd. to Mason Rd. When it reaches the pond, the sidewalk moves to the inside of the fence and becomes private. The fence is between the street and the sidewalk.” What’s a pedestrian supposed to do when the only sidewalk moves into a gated area, and is marked as off limits? Asks the reader: “Can a pedestrian be cited as a trespasser? Note the North side of the street is a golf course with no sidewalk.”


As the photo at the top shows, there’s no gate separating the private from the presumably public portions of the sidewalk. But if you keep walking east along the sidewalk from the spot shown, past the NO TRESPASSING sign pictured above, you’ll eventually find yourself on the opposite side of the metal fence from the street, where you’ll be labeled by another sign facing the street (see second photo from top) as someone who’s somewhere you aren’t supposed to be.

The reader wonders whether new construction may have created the paved path to indiscretion: “There is a possibility that the sidewalk inside the fence predates the rest of the sidewalk. I seem to recall new sidewalk construction in the area (Cinco Ranch Blvd. and Peek Rd. area) about a year ago.”

Photos: Swamplot inbox

39 Comment

  • Is this a legitimate technical question, or an underhanded critique on socio-economic separation of private property from the pedestrian unwashed masses?

  • That’s just Katy trying to remind you that walking is for criminals. Traveling short distances not suitable for cars can be accomplished via golf cart, Segway or rickshaw. But of course, this is all assuming you’re leaving your property for non-commercial purposes, which is highly frowned upon.

  • Gotta keep the riff raff joggers and power walkers out. haha ???

  • Shouldn’t a land survey for that property settle the question? Either there’s a public right-of-way there, or not?

  • It’s stuff like this that makes me glad to live in the loop. I can’t imagine having neighbors who would put something like this up.

  • Many of the same people from the Katy area (colleagues and acquantances) who say that we need rail transit to get people out of their cars (and are blissfully unaware of any tradeoffs or any feasibility issues) would probably be fine with this sidewalk being private.

    A sidewalk adjacent to A PUBLIC STREET, built with money outside Cinco Ranch. And then see no irony in their position.

  • “Shouldn’t a land survey for that property settle the question? Either there’s a public right-of-way there, or not?”

    The only common sense response so far.

    There are private sidewalks all over Houston and in the inner loop areas.

    This is not a suburban phenomenon.

  • To address the OP and the commenters, the answer is that you won’t be cited for anything and that no one cares. Enjoy your walk, have a great time, etc etc. I speak as someone who lives in the neighborhood.

  • @CG- nails it exactly.

  • @Ryan – Fair enough – but if nobody cares and nobody is going to get cited, what’s the purpose of the sign if not to give the Paul Blart types something to justify harassing people?

  • This stuff happens inside the loop, too. Consider Taft & Lovett in Montrose where an entire street was fenced off and the sidewalk on the public side removed. To walk down Taft, you either have to step onto the road or cross to the other sidewalk, in which case you’ll need to dodge some electrical utility boxes.


  • Here’s a better URL to the street view of the bought-out street http://is.gd/qDrKZw

  • @Mollusk: but that assumes there Paul Blart are types hanging out. Do you mean rent-a-cops? I’m not aware that there is such a thing in CR. There’s a constable patrol that’s no different than what I experienced previously in the Heights. Do you mean “concerned citizens”? The Tom Hanks in The ‘Burbs types? Well, no doubt they are out (haven’t run across them myself), but nobody is getting carded to make sure they are residents. This particular area is a bit of a destination — hike and bike trail, catch n release fishing, playground, playing fields, pool, etc, etc. People come here from all over the area — residents and, I’m sure, many non-residents. Perhaps the sign is effective in scaring off inner loopers who got lost and aren’t up to date on their rabies shots.

  • Harris County should have required developers to dedicate PUBLIC park land in exchange for clear cutting forests and tearing apart prairies. The result is that the county has not been able to keep up with the need for park space as the population has boomed. People in the planned communities begin seeing people from outside of the community using their trails and get all bent out of shape about it (not sure what happened here, but I have heard of one place that had a problem with people using the lake as a practice pond for their bird dogs).

  • #11: The purpose is a clumsy attempt to suggest exclusivity before the fact, and thus has the opposite effect. So they might want to consider removing it.
    (I’m only thinking of their property values, of course; though I am humming a little tune: But on the other side, it didn’t say nothing, That side was made for you and me.)

  • I’m guessing the signs are there for one reason and one reason only: if someone in authority decides to harass someone they deem undesirable, it gives them a thin veneer of legitimacy which might be just enough to intimidate someone into leaving.

  • I suspect the no trespassing refers to the lakes and park area. Using the sidewalk won’t get you in trouble.

    @Old School, do counties even have that sort of power? There was no clear cutting at Cinco, there were not many trees out there.

  • So my friend’s neighbors on both sides and across the street have used pea gravel to make head in parking spaces in front of the their houses in the Heights.

    In doing so they eliminated 2-3 parallel street parking spots in front of each house, as well as taking over what I assume is the city right of way. I assume this can’t be legal, but then this is Houston so who knows?

    Anyway these neighbors throw fits if anyone parks in their spaces. My friends like to have people over and now parking is a real challenge. I been confronted by the neighbors before and have told them that these are not their spaces and they vehemently (violently) disagree. Am I right? Am I wrong? Should I just pretend they aren’t there and park behind them on the street like I would have had they not taken over those spaces? Is there anything that can be done?

  • #12, that’s the wall of Courtlandt Place. Houston’s original tony hood from the early 1900s. It may be the city’s failing to not complete the sidewalk around the subdivision line.

  • There are private streets, private sidewalks, private parks, etc. all over the region, typically owned by HOAs. Consumers like them because it gives them a (mostly false) feeling of exclusivity and safety. Government entities like them because private money is used to construct and then MAINTAIN (citizens always forget about that part) facilities that displace the demand for and use of public facilities. Private common areas also add to the tax base directly and indirectly.

    There are some counties (not in Texas) where I’ve done development work that require what they call “impact fees” for roads, parks, and pretty much everything else under the sun. But…what they do is charge flat fees per each single-family domicile or apartment unit without regard for size or value or any other consideration. The REAL reason that they do it is not to finance public infrastructure so much as it is to push the most affordable housing in their region into the next jurisdiction down the road. It is used as a work-around to effect exclusionary zoning.

  • @Derek #12 and 13, when Courtland Place was built over 100 years ago, it was a “Private Place” and already enclosed. It was opened up in the 1910s, and then closed again when the residents purchased the street back from the city in 1980.
    See http://houstonhistorymagazine.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/V5-N3-Gordon-and-Jones-Courtland-Place.pdf

  • I’m sure they are referring to the lake…if their making a big fuss over a sidewalk they have more problems than outsiders and property values!

  • @Charlie: generally speaking possibly that’s NO. Your friend’s neighbors ,if I understand from your description,are using PUBLIC right-of-way space. Which is ILLEGAL. Tell your friend to take digital pics and email/text them to the COH/Department of Neighborhoods / Neighborhood Protection. DO a Google search for the contact info. It may take a while:as in over a year,but they could/may send out an inspector.And depending if the neighbors are in violation,they’ll be giving a deadline to remedy the situation.

  • @patrick. Thanks.

  • @Charlie – The city grants permission to do this in the Heights all the time. The owner is usually permitted to make the spots, but they are not his spots – anyone is allowed to use them.

    The Heights actually has fairly wide right of ways. Many people have second spots, but there is no legal authority from preventing someone from parking in them.

    Militant neighbors though, may take their anger out on your vehicle when you are not there…

  • Re: improving ROW/drainage ditches. It has become much more difficult to get permits to put in a pipe and build up the ROW for parking spaces. The City has become much more vigilant about the impact on drainage. The whole point of having the drainage ditches is that they can hold water when the system is overloaded and then gradually let the water drain out as the bayous come down. Whenever you put in a pipe, you reduce the storage capacity. The other problem with covering up the ditches is that it only works if the ditch down stream from you keeps the water moving with the same size/pitch. Up the street from me, someone covered up the ditch, but connected to a downstream ditch that was too shallow in comparison. As a result, after a big rain, the ditch has stagnant, mosquito infested water for about a week.

  • Just ignore the signs. You might be trespassing, but cops need reasonable suspicion before they harass you, at least I theory. How can a cop know that you are not a Cinco Ranch resident? You are not required to show ID to cops unless you are already under arrest. Just keep walking and exercise your right to remain silent.

  • “It’s stuff like this that makes me glad to live in the loop. I can’t imagine having neighbors who would put something like this up.”

    Think again. Suburbs-1. ITL-2.



  • The county government exist for one purpose. That is to enrich the pockets of the developers and them selves. Just look at how many county judges have been indicted and/or convicted of being too cozy with the developers. An why are they called “judges”? They are actually county commissioners. The term “judge” implies a certain level of integrity which has never been apparent in many of the office holders.

  • @Bernard, that’s what i was saying. There is no private security patrol keeping tabs of who is playing on the playground, walking around the lake, etc. And the thought that the constable patrol would stop someone for ID or whatever is laughable (unless is it blatantly illegal). People seem to be caught up with the Big Scary Sign, but what do you expect when you have ask a lawyer to write up a no-trespassing sign?

  • Bernard / Ryan, either your whiteness is radiating here or you guys never grew up in urban areas.

  • Charlie,
    Check out the city signs on 9th between Studewood and Beverly (PARALLEL PARKING ONLY). This is the law in Texas. Why is it only enforced in one block. With daylight savings it is dangerous in the street going around the sidewalk blocking, illegal, perpendicular parking.Someone is going to get killed!

  • I did, Joel, but i fail to see your point. We’re talking about this particular sign in this particular subdivision. Are you suggesting some hypothetical where a bunch of gangbangers are hanging out on the wrong side of the no trespassing sign? Fine, perhaps there’s a chance the constable patrol will tell to move on. But that’s a small chance because the patrol isn’t hanging out there and they have plenty of ground to cover elsewhere. But most likely it would be the same reaction as in an urban area, which is that the residents would give them a wide berth.

  • To Charlie’s point, I believe the city allows people to put in culverts and lay down peagravel, with the assumption that they are using the pad in the ROW to access a parking space on their own property. A friend did similar at his place in the heights, got the permit to put in the culvert and ended up pulling down his side yard fence to show where he would be parking. Once the permit closed he put his fence back up and used the ROW gravel pad for parking. With a closed permit only public complaint is going to get anyone out there to look around/ask questions.

    But be aware that a pissed off home owner can be very dangerous and has lots of “rights”. Parking in their spot might get you towed or worse yet, shot (How does the castle doctrine handle adjacent ROW?)

  • Actually, Courtland Place is not a private street. Just drive up to the gate and it opens. They closed it when the gay bars were across the street, but they didn’t buy it. Don’t believe me? Drive up to the gate and see what happens.

    Same thing with Arlington Court off of Memorial, they wanted the city to maintain the streets, so they can gate it. That’s why the “guard” sits off the street. It’s just a way to appear private, when it is not.

  • Correction on Arlington Court, should say so they can’t gate it.

  • And that is what is wrong in the Heights.
    The City does very little and the HOA is a social club that tells you to call the city. Ever read CATCH 22?

  • @say what, Courtlandt Blvd is, in fact, private. The gate may open, but the residents own the street according to HCAD.