With the addition of 150 miles of walkways and bike trails, Houston’s Bayou Greenways project is on course to link up all new and existing parkland along the city’s bayou network.
The scheme aims to be complete by 2020, despite experiencing difficulty acquiring plot spaces from some landowners. Boosted by the city council’s approval of $19 million for the project, the Houston Parks Board can now press on and purchase more land.
Houston’s residents eagerly anticipate Bayou Greenways. In 2012, 68 percent of voters approved the proposal’s $166 million in parks funding, coming one step closer to realizing urban planner and landscape architect Arthur Comey’s 1912 master plan bayou-park vision.
The 300 miles of trails and 4,000 acres of parkland will connect suburban neighborhoods to establish a new social space where people can meet, walk, and discover the edges of Houston. According to the Bayou Greenways 2020 website, the project captures the area’s “Houston-ness” while “celebrating the experiential variety of each individual bayou, [creating] a cohesive identity for Houston Bayou Greenways as a whole.”
Houston Bayou Greenways 2020, under the Houston Parks Board, commissioned Houston-based landscape architecture firms Clark Condon and SWA Group to realize these goals. They will seek to create green getaways from the city and a distilled sense of place in the area, offering a contrast to its urban surroundings.
Catherine Butsch, communications manager of the Houston Parks Board, said that as part of a 30 year maintenance agreement, city tax revenue will be set aside on a mile-by-mile basis with the option of two 25 year extensions at the end of that contract. In addition, the Houston-based Kinder Foundation pledged $50 million toward maintenance.
For the future, Butsch says the board already has aspirations for how they want the project to develop. Currently, the Bayou complex sprays East to West, providing drainage to the surrounding areas. Butsch said the board intends to implement a North-South system that would go on to form a grid—edging closer still to Comey’s ideal of a park that took advantage of the natural ecology while benefitting its inhabitants.