High above the banks of White Oak Bayou near Shepherd and West 7th Street, city officials broke ground on the first leg of a bold public-private initiative to create a 150-miles web of hike and bike trails in the next seven years.
The $215 million Bayou Greenways project — originally conceived in a 1912 master plan for the city — envisions a 1,500-acre network of parkland snaking along Houston’s waterways. Within the greenspace, roughly 80 new miles of trails will be added to an existing 70 miles.
"We are going back to the past and focusing on Houston's heart line," mayor Annise Parker said during a Wednesday afternoon ceremony.
"We are going back to the past and focusing on Houston's heart line," Parker said.
"We were founded on the bayou. That's what moved goods and formed the shape of Houston. Now we're moving into the future with the re-imagining of this wonderful greenspace as it could be and should be."
Phase one will lengthening Heights Hike and Bike Trail by 1.35 miles to connect it with the White Oak Bayou Greenway along T.C. Jester. The charred remains of an abandoned railroad bridge — still used by daring cyclists — will be replaced as well.
"I'm looking over here at this bridge . . . And, frankly, you all have to be crazy," Parker laughed. "But it tells you how committed those cyclists and hikers are in the city of Houston. The desire to be connected from trail to trail will drive someone to ride across that rickety old path."
In the coming year, four additional projects will extend the White Oak Bayou trails from Hollister Road to downtown Houston.