A $3.5 million dollar grant from the Texas Department of Transportation is funding the greening project. More than 5,000 trees are being planted along the 6-10 West Loop from Buffalo Bayou down to the Southwest Freeway. The trees will also line U.S. 59 from the loop down to Chimney Rock. And what was a vacant lot on Hidalgo is now a three-acre park with a detention pond. Uptown Houston District President John Breeding says there's a lot of concrete in the Galleria area and he's already hearing positive feedback from residents about the environmental improvements.
"I randomly ran into a resident of one of the condominiums that is just across the street here. And she was so excited about the detention pond, about the greening and about the landscaping. She said 'you know I used to live by the freeway and now I live by a park.'"
The Hidalgo Park is more than just a pretty spot. The centerpiece of the park is a pond. The entire tract of land slopes down toward the pond, which will serve as flood mitigation. City Councilwoman Anne Clutterbuck says the freeway widening along the loop required the state to provide a place for run-off so this park was built to flood.
"The thinking is if you have small detention areas at various points along our watersheds that it helps everybody downstream."
In addition to the park and the trees, 6,500 shrubs were planted along with 15,000 ground cover plants and 3 acres of grasses. A number of native plants, including wax myrtle, cherry laurel and azaleas were included to reflect the kinds of plants found in nearby Memorial Park. Breeding says urban greenspace was a priority as part of the freeway widening project.
"The Texas Department of Transportation also has a program where they go in and try to bring back some greenspace and we've worked together in a jointly funded project and really I think made a wonderful difference in what the Loop is going to look like over the next few years."
Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.