In-Depth

How Houston’s Bayou Trails Are Designed To Flood

As the Bayou Greenways network continues to expand, the Houston Parks Board says it’s building trails and fixtures with the knowlege that they’ll go underwater at some point.

There’s a lot of talk in Houston about resiliency, as experts have been looking at ways the city can redesign its infrastructure to better withstand floods and hurricanes.

One example of designing with resiliency in mind is Houston’s Bayou Greenways, a growing network of bike and pedestrian trails that run alongside the city’s waterways. The trails are basically designed to go underwater, according to Trent Rondot, the Houston Parks Board’s Conservation and Maintenance Director.

“As much as possible we know that the design work that we do will be impacted by floods,” said Rondot.

Rondot said that in every area along the trails that they know is likely to flood, they install fixtures that won’t be heavily impacted by high water.

“We have seating nodes, we have trash cans and benches and drinking fountains all throughout the system, but all of those are designed with the understanding that they will go underwater,” he said. “And once the water drains away then it’s a matter of going back and checking to make sure you don’t have any damages to your facilities.”

Rondot said that after Hurricane Harvey they spent almost $1.3 million cleaning up the trail system. A lot of that work entailed hauling off silt, but there was no damage to the trails or bridges.

“We lost a couple of lids off of trash cans but other than that the Greenways system was relatively unaffected structurally from Harvey,” said Rondot.

But on a regular day, what kind of effort does it take to maintain the Bayou Greenways?

“Our contractors walk every mile of every bayou that we have every week picking up litter,” said Rondot. “They actually do the opposite bank of where the trail is as well, because when you’re walking along the trail you don’t want to look across the bayou and see a bunch of trash over there.”

And Rondot added that the massive trash cleanup effort is about more than just aesthetics.

“It is critical because all of this litter that gets into the bayous will eventually work its way downstream to Galveston Bay and into the Gulf of Mexico,” said Rondot. “We’re doing our part to try and keep Galveston Bay clean as much as possible.”

Rondot said they also aim to have a balance between maintaining natural areas and creating safe lines of sight along the trails.

“We definitely are cognizant of trying to keep lines of sight open,” said Rondot. “We will do a little selective clearing in spots where we know there could be potential line of sight issues. We also try to keep about a 10-foot buffer along both sides of the trail where it’s open. That way you can see immediately adjacent to the trail.”

The Bayou Greenways system is expected to be completed next year, giving Houston’s walkers and cyclists about 150 miles of trails.

Share

Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

More Information