Workers at Eleanor Tinsley Park just off Allen Parkway start removing benches overlooking the bayou and the downtown skyline.
It’s the first part of the park’s remodeling, with the main purpose to improve the area as a venue for major events.
Guy Hagstette, who led the development of Discovery Green, is the project manager for the entire Buffalo Bayou improvement project.
“They’ll start removing the old shelters, the metal shelters; the playground equipment; taking out trees, including the grove of pine trees behind me, which kind of blocks the skyline view; opening up the meadow, the future Bud Light Amphitheater, to the skyline view once again.”
In addition, other trees will be planted, the parking lot remodeled, a big pavilion added and the garden expanded.
Anne Olson is the president of the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, which has been revitalizing the bayou for more than 25 years. She says Eleanor Tinsley Park is special for Houston.
“Major events are held here, such as the Fourth of July and Summer Fest. And by putting in this needed infrastructure, it will be a lot easier to put on the events but also the landscape will be more protected.”
The special upgrades for the park are possible thanks to a $2 million donation by local beer distributor Silver Eagle. In addition, the park renovation, including hike-and-bike trail improvements, is part of the $58 million Buffalo Bayou revitalization project.
Olson says as Houston grows, so does the importance of having more green space – not just for economic development but quality of life.
“I think in the past Buffalo Bayou was an undiscovered resource for Houston, but I think more and more people are coming to realize, you know, it’s the historic birthplace of our city, and it’s a very, very important amenity to attract young people to Houston.”
Guy Hagstette says once the entire project is complete, Houston will be right up there with other cities known for their water front attractions.
“One comparison we had is Ladybird Lake or Town Lake in Austin. I’d say the lake front in Chicago would be another example. This is 2.3 miles of linear park. Most cities would, you know, just die to have this kind of parkland at the doorstep of their downtown.”
The Eleanor Tinsley Park renovation is expected to be complete by next spring, in time for summer events. The entire Buffalo Bayou project is scheduled to be done in mid-2015.
Eleanor Tinsley Park during an event (looking east toward downtown). Rendering by SWA Group.