Bayou Greenways 2020
“There is unlikely to be any other investment in the greater Houston area that will have a significant impact on quality of place; transform its park system; contribute to the health of its residents, environment, and economy; and reposition the region for the 21st century”
— Dr. John Crompton, University Distinguished Professor and Regents Professor, Texas A&M University
The Houston Parks Board is embarking on the boldest and most exciting capital project in its history: Bayou Greenways 2020. This ambitious project will significantly expand and enhance Houston’s parks system, creating a continuous system within the city limits of 150 miles of parks and trails along Houston’s bayous.
Bayou Greenways 2020, which is part of the larger, overarching Bayou Greenways initiative, is estimated at $215 million and is being funded through a unique public-private partnership. In the November 2012 election, Houston voters overwhelmingly approved a major bond referendum providing $166 million in parks funding, $100 million of which is dedicated to Bayou Greenways 2020. The bond passed with 68% of the votes – the most positive referendum in the city’s history.
Vision & Background
Completing Houston’s Bayou Greenways will fulfill a 100 year old vision to create continuous and accessible parks and trails along the major bayous within the City. It was in 1912 that Arthur Comey, a visionary urban planner, laid out a master plan for Houston where its park system is organized around its bayou corridors. In this plan, continuous ribbons of green along Houston’s bayous tie together great parks – also located along the bayous, albeit without the benefit of the connections to link them. Hermann Park, Memorial Park, Keith-Wiess Park, Terry Hershey Park, Mason Park, Herman Brown Park, and many others are located along Houston’s bayous. Once Houston’s Bayou Greenways are complete, these stand-alone oases will further enrich our City by anchoring the continuous greenspaces along the bayous.
By its namesake date Bayou Greenways 2020 will complete the greenway connections as well as a continuous line of all-weather trail along at least one side of Houston’s major bayous. While the primary beneficiaries of this stage of the overall Bayou Greenways initiative, will be the residents of Houston’s City limits, all visitors to Houston will also enjoy this unique amenity not found anywhere else in the country. The magic and beauty is in the simplicity of the system. It will be a system that connects Houston’s parks along its major bayous with varying widths of continuous public greenspaces; it will also be a system that threads together major employment centers, major institutions, diverse neighborhoods -- a system that embraces the cultural and socioeconomic diversity of a city that spans nearly 650 square miles.
The cost to deliver the Project is estimated at $215 million.
The physical components required to complete Bayou Greenways 2020 represent the foundational phase of laying down a continuous green and accessible framework consisting of additional land parcels, and construction of trail and trail-related amenities. Those are the Quantitative Outcomes.
The physical components will result in certain Qualitative Outcomes that will be accomplished either by the establishment of those components of Bayou Greenways 2020 or will be realized in future years by other stakeholders. In the years and generations to come, those stakeholders and people from across Houston will continue the process of enriching the greenways that run through the city’s diverse neighborhoods, constructing additional amenities and undertaking programming that will fulfill the true and ultimate promise of the system. Over time, the greenways will come to reflect the myriad of communities that make up our city – and, rather than being a uniform collection of look-alike trails, they will meet the needs and interests of a diverse, far-flung community.
1. Quantitative Outcomes:
- 1,500 acres of new and equitably distributed parkland parcels to provide continuous greenspaces along bayous within the Houston City limits – the majority of these new parcels will remain as nature areas with minimal capital improvements.
- 80 miles of new, thoughtfully designed, all-weather trails and trail-related amenities (such as trailheads, landscaping, benches) along bayous to fill-in gaps for a total of 150 miles of bayou trails. The trails will connect all existing and new parkland along the bayous to each other, and will either directly connect to, or enable connections to transit facilities in close proximity, existing sidewalks, existing bikelanes, and existing multi-purpose trails.
2. Qualitative Outcomes:
- Equitable Distribution -- continuous greenspaces and amenities along all stretches of bayous which touch a vast number of neighborhoods.
- Places for Houstonians to connect, meet, recreate, and celebrate – places for personal and community discovery and exploration of nature, history, diversity, culture and heritage.
- Accessibility -- maximizing both physical and visual access to the bayou greenways.
- Authentic, timeless, and capturing our “Houstonness” – celebrating the experiential variety of each individual bayou while creating a cohesive identity for Houston Bayou Greenways as a whole.
- Respect for the natural setting and ecological significance of the bayou corridors.
The addition of 80 new miles and 1,500 acres of new parkland will create an additional maintenance requirement on the system. A study to quantify the additional maintenance and prescribe the best strategies is underway. The study’s outcomes will both inform the design and layout of the trails and greenways, and provide the data needed to designate a reliable and dedicated stream of funding to maintain the bayou greenways.
In addition to the Houston Parks Board, many public, private, and non-profit stakeholders will participate in completing Bayou Greenways 2020 Those stakeholders may include the following entities:
- Regulatory – such as City of Houston and Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD).
- Elected Officials – such as City, County, Sate, and Federal officials.
- Non-Profits – such as Bayou Preservation Association and Buffalo Bayou Partnership.
- Private funders -- such as foundations, corporations, and individuals/families.
- Public Sector funders -- such as Department of Transportation and Fish & Wildlife Department.
- Management Districts/TIRZs – such as Memorial Heights TIRZ #5
- Superneighborhoods -- such as Kingwood Superneighborhood.
- Civic Associations -- such as Fonde Civic Association and Idylwood Civic Club.
- Homeowners Associations -- such as Braeswood Homeowners Association.
- Interest/User Groups – such as bikers, runners, birders, and paddlers.
- Learning Institutions – such as University of Houston and Lone Star College
- Health Institutions – such as Memorial Herman and Texas Children’s Hospital
- Chambers of Commerce – such as Greater Houston Partnership and Houston Hispanic Chamber.
Bayou Greenways 2020 will complete the Bayou Greenways initiative within the city limits of Houston. The next 7 years will transform the city we love, into one of the best quality-of-life cities in the nation!
Historic $50 Million Gift Press Release here
Fact Sheet for Bayou Greenways 2020 here