Lighting on the Bayou Greenways Trails - It's Complicated
Early on in planning for Bayou Greenways 2020, one of the features we considered was the feasibility of lighting on the hike-and-bike trails. Lighting would make the trails more accessible and usable during the dark winter months and could, logically, deter crime.
What we learned? Lighting can be challenging – especially along the bayous!
First, we must not disrupt the flow of the bayou. Because the trails are alongside the bayous, we are often using the Harris County Flood Control District’s right-of-way. If we are not on their property, we are on land adjacent to it. That means we work very closely with them when we design the trails so we do not disrupt or impede the flow of water during a rain event. Lighting and the associated electric infrastructure and wiring could become obstacles during a rain or flood event.
Second, we must follow our own rules (and HPARD’s). Our partner, Houston Parks and Recreation Department is the long-time expert in building and operating our city parks. Their park rules are “dawn to dusk.” We set that rule for the Bayou Greenways trails and we ask users to follow it.
Third, trails and greenspace are the priority. Funds for BG2020 are specifically dedicated to building 70 miles of trails. They will ultimately connect for a total of 150 miles of hike-and-bike trails all across our city, and assemble more than 1,400 acres of greenspace to connect people and neighborhoods to existing parks. Public and private funding also provides for wayfinding and signage, trash and recycling receptacles, benches, and water fountains.
So why do some trails have lights? Where appropriate, a partner, management district, agency, or other nonprofit has agreed to fund, install, and maintain them. Houston Parks Board is pleased to see community members eager to enhance the greenways with amenities beyond the scope of BG2020 funding, like lighting, and are happy to facilitate discussions between such organizations, Houston Parks Board, and Harris County Flood Control District.
The great news? The trails are transforming neighborhoods and benefitting residents throughout Houston. They are becoming mainstays – to exercise, take the family, meet friends, travel to work or other destinations, and are proliferating the culture of walking, running, and biking in and throughout our great city.