Let’s start with some history: Almost 100 years ago a Harvard-educated landscape architect proposed a comprehensive park system along Houston’s bayous. His name was Arthur C. Comey, and he believed the city’s network of bayous could ultimately become a web of interconnecting parks and trails. In 1913 he wrote that the “bayous and creek valleys readily lend themselves to trails and parks and cannot so advantageously be used for any other purpose.” Well, 97 years later it looks like his vision is finally coming to fruition.
“So it’s been around for almost a hundred years, but now seems to be the time where a lot of groups and a lot of energy is being focused on this, and in fact some parts of it are starting to happen.”
Roksan Okan-Vick is the executive director of the Houston Parks Board, a private non-profit partner with the City of Houston. She says the Bayou Greenway Initiative started earlier this year. It’s a massive undertaking stretching from Spring to Clear Creek, which will take 10-15 years to complete. The goal? Three-hundred miles of connected trails along ten of the region’s bayous.
“The key is to make those connections so that in fact you have those trails continuous without having to get up on a street or cross a street, you’re always on a safe trail which could double up as alternative transportation.”
Recently, the city and the Houston Parks Board received a 2 million dollar transportation enhancement grant to go toward the Brays Bayou part of the initiative, south of downtown. Considering the total cost of the initiative is $490 million dollars, the grant is a tiny drop in the pond. Still, the money means a crucial portion of Brays Bayou will be completed.
“We’re now at Mason Park. We’re walking down part of a trail…”
Right now, there’s a big gap in the path here along Brays Bayou. But with the new funding, this gap and another from Gus Wortham Park to Gragg Park will be completed. It’ll make it possible for people to use the trail from the ship channel to the medical center without any breaks along the ten mile trek. Harris County Flood Control does a big share of the work, carving out a shelf-like space along the bayou. Then the Parks Board comes in to build the trail on top of it.
“We’re trying to get a ten foot wide paved trail that would allow for multi-use, whether it’s bikers, strollers, rollerbladers, walkers.”
Trent Rondot is project manager with the Parks Board. He says work on this section of Brays Bayou will ideally take 18 months, though it could take longer.
David Crossley is the president of Houston Tomorrow, a non-profit livability group. He says the entire initiative is a good thing for the region.
“I think it’s just the most visionary thing that there is going about our city.”
Although this section of Brays Bayou has the funding, the bulk of the Bayou Greenway Initiative depends on further grants and donations before Arthur Comey’s one hundred year old plan of weaving paths and parklands can finally materialize.
From the KUHF NewsLab, I’m Wendy Siegle.