blazing a trail

Unique new park and hiking trail breaks ground in downtown Houston

Unique new park and hiking trail breaks ground in downtown Houston

Buffalo Bayou at White Oak
The new trail will expand along Buffalo Bayou. Photo by Anthony Rathbun

A new park and hike and bike trail along Buffalo Bayou is being heralded as one of the most unique in Houston. Construction has begun on the new green space and 0.4-mile hike and bike trail along Buffalo Bayou from Fannin Street to McKee Street.

This segment, when complete, will tie directly into the proposed Austin Street Bikeway and provide important connections to Buffalo Bayou Park and to trails east of downtown, according to a press release.

Helmed by Houston Parks Board and Buffalo Bayou Partnership, the project is in cooperation with the Downtown Redevelopment Authority, the City of Houston, and the Houston Parks and Recreation Department. The green space project, designed by SWA Group’s Houston studio, will cost approximately $8 million.

Logistically, the trail will begin at Allen’s Landing Park and continue east under the Fannin Street Bridge, transverse up the slope along Commerce Street before passing under the San Jacinto Bridge to the Wilson Building on Commerce Street. It will continue through the second basement level of the Wilson Building and under the Harris County Sheriff's Inmate Processing Center.

From there, the trail opens to a new park on former parking lots along the bayou on either side of Austin Street. As part of the park, the current Austin Street cul-de-sac will be converted into a public plaza, per a release.

Notable features along the segment include:

  • Pole lighting with blue orbs that reflect the lunar cycle continuing the lighting system along Buffalo Bayou Park
  • Special art lighting under the San Jacinto Bridge to complement the pole lights
  • Safety lighting under the San Jacinto Bridge, in the Wilson Building, and under the Inmate Processing Center
  • A stairway connection from Commerce Street leading down to the trail
  • Two trail connections at La Branch Street and McKee Street
  • Wayfinding signage
  • Benches, bike racks, and trash and recycling receptacles

East of the new plaza, the trail continues under the newly rebuilt Elysian Viaduct to McKee Street. It will extend along the waterfront property owned by CenterPoint as a separate Buffalo Bayou Partnership project.

The trail will connect downtown and the south side of Buffalo Bayou to the MKT Trail and White Oak Bayou Greenway.

Following approximately one year of construction, Buffalo Bayou Partnership will maintain the park and trail under contract with the Houston Parks Board as part of the Bayou Greenways 2020 maintenance agreement with the City of Houston.

Buffalo Bayou Partnership project donors are Barbara and Gerald Hines, Wendy and Jeff Hines, and Sis and Hasty Johnson. Partner funding comes from the Downtown Redevelopment Authority, a public entity that facilitates positive economic development within downtown’s TIRZ #3 boundaries, and Bayou Greenways 2020, a public-private partnership between Houston Parks Board and the City of Houston through the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, with catalyst funding from the Kinder Foundation.

“This will be one of, if not the most unique trail in Houston,” said Anne Olson, Buffalo Bayou Partnership president, in a statement. “Instead of removing urban infrastructure, our organization has a history of incorporating it into our projects.” Olson added that the trail is a vital link in the historic waterway’s trail system and will play an important role in connecting Buffalo Bayou Park to parks, green spaces and cultural destinations east of downtown.