Dramatic Park Revamping

More than 14,000 new trees are transforming a vital Houston park: $50-million-plus project's uber green

More than 14,000 new trees are transforming a vital Houston park

News, Shelby, Buffalo Bayou Park tree planting, Feb. 2015
Flowering shrimp plants are among the thousands of plants being added to the Buffalo Bayou Park landscape. Photo by Shelby Hodge
News, Shelby, Buffalo Bayou Park tree planting, Feb. 2015
Work crews are busy adding 14,000 trees to the park landscape. Courtesy of Buffalo Bayou Partnership
News, Shelby, Buffalo Bayou Park tree planting, Feb. 2015
The details on the park transformation are detailed on the billboard. Photo by Shelby Hodge
News, Shelby, Buffalo Bayou Park tree planting, Feb. 2015
The new trails and tree planting are user friendly. Photo by Shelby Hodge
News, Shelby, Buffalo Bayou Park tree planting, Feb. 2015
Sasanquas are part of the beauty of the park plantings. Photo by Shelby Hodge
News, Shelby, Buffalo Bayou Park tree planting, Feb. 2015
Each hole was dug to support a new tree for Buffalo Bayou Park. Photo by Shelby Hodge
News, Shelby, Buffalo Bayou Park tree planting, Feb. 2015
Camellias bloom across areas of Buffalo Bayou Park. Photo by Shelby Hodge
News, Shelby, Buffalo Bayou Park tree planting, Feb. 2015
News, Shelby, Buffalo Bayou Park tree planting, Feb. 2015
News, Shelby, Buffalo Bayou Park tree planting, Feb. 2015
News, Shelby, Buffalo Bayou Park tree planting, Feb. 2015
News, Shelby, Buffalo Bayou Park tree planting, Feb. 2015
News, Shelby, Buffalo Bayou Park tree planting, Feb. 2015
News, Shelby, Buffalo Bayou Park tree planting, Feb. 2015

The uber-greening of Buffalo Bayou Park is running in high gear these days as work crews and volunteers rush to complete the addition of 14,000 native trees and an untold number of plants to the already verdant 160-acre swath of land that parallels two of the city's major thoroughfares.

Commuters from the 'burbs who travel Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive to downtown have been pleasantly distracted almost daily over the last few weeks as banks and banks of trees seem to be sprouting overnight. The loblolly pines, redbuds and several varieties of oak and sycamore are creating sound and vision barriers between the heavily-trafficked boulevards and the park. The transformation is surely a joy to tree-huggers.

Some 8,000 trees in the planting represent 35 species of native trees. Thanks goes to Apache Corp. for funding that effort.

 The loblolly pines, redbuds and several varieties of oak and sycamore are creating sound and vision barriers between the heavily-trafficked boulevards and the park.  

It's all part of the redesign project that began with a $30 million gift from the Kinder Foundation and continues with the Buffalo Bayou Partnership committed to raising the final $23 million to complete the park's transformation. The partnership has joined the City of Houston, through the Houston Parks & Recreation Department, and Harris County Flood Control District in re-imagining the park as an active place for people and their dogs.

"We are approximately 75 percent complete with planting throughout the park," said Scott McCready, senior designer with the international landscape architecture firm SWA Group. "We anticipate completing the primary planting design by June 2015."

A recent walk through the park revealed vast expanses of new plants as well as trees. Banks of camellias, shrimp plants, ferns, ground covers and more are already lending a genteel ambiance to the park, which beyond scenic vistas will actually offer numerous activities.

"We are sourcing the plants and trees from a number of local nurseries and also incorporating tree donations, volunteer planting efforts and parallel planting efforts by the Harris County Flood Control District," McCready said. "It’s quite an effort to source all these plants, particularly given the hot construction and development market."

The Buffalo Bayou Partnership is keeping tabs on various aspects of the park transformation. Their tabulation of additions to the park landscape follows:

* 2.3 miles (4.6 mile loop) of trails and foot paths
* 450 lights
* 14,000 native trees with plenty of irrigation to protect against drought
*  92 trash receptacles 
*  2 sets of public restrooms (near Sabine Street and another on the west side at Lost Lake near Dunlavy and Allen Parkway).
*  18 new drinking fountains  (six new fountains will include spigots for dogs).
*  40 bike racks installed at approximately 10 sites located throughout the park.
*  38 new benches installed throughout the park.
*  17 acres of natural grasslands planted from seeds collected by the Katy Prairie Conservancy, a partner in the project.