About the Project

OVERVIEW

Transformation of Buffalo Bayou Park, one of Houston’s most iconic spaces, is underway.

Likened to Houston’s own Central Park, the ambitious $58 million project will include:

  • restoration of natural landscapes, including trees and native grasses
  • new and upgraded trails for walkers and hikers to enjoy nature and the bayou
  • two pedestrian bridges—one near Jackson Hill Street and one at the Police Memorial
  • extension of the distinctive blue lunar cycle lighting
  • destination features including The Water Works adjacent to the Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark, Lost Lake near Dunlavy and Allen Parkway, a dog park near  Allen Parkway, and enhancements to a portion of Eleanor Tinsley Park
  • additional benches, picnic spots and drinking fountains

See the Buffalo Bayou Park – Shepherd to Sabine Master Plan.

TRAILS

The City of Houston and TxDOT have rebuilt the 5-mile Sandy Reed Memorial trail.

Ten-foot wide concrete trails, on both sides of the bayou are complete and allow cyclists and joggers to share these multi-use trails. To accommodate trail users who want to enjoy a leisurely walk, Buffalo Bayou Partnership is building 5-foot wide asphalt footpaths that will be located closer to the bayou banks. New drinking fountains and benches will be conveniently located along the trails, and park users will have access to other amenities, including restrooms and a bike rental facility.

See the Buffalo Bayou Trail Guide.

BRIDGES

Pedestrian bridges have been constructed at the Police Memorial and at Jackson Hill to provide greater accessibility to Buffalo Bayou Park.

A 345-foot long pedestrian bridge near Jackson Hill Street was complete in late winter 2013 and soars a dramatic 40 feet above the bayou and connects with the existing bridge over Memorial Drive, providing access to Allen Parkway. A second pedestrian bridge at the Police Memorial was completed in early 2014 and allows park users, for the first time, to access the Police Memorial from other areas of the park. The Carruth Foundation donated $1 million for this naming opportunity. Both bridges will be similar in aesthetic to the Hobby Center Bridge and complement TxDOT’s Shepherd Bridge and the Rosemont Bridge. Smaller footbridges over several ravines and outfall tributaries are also located in the park.

CHANNEL RESTORATION

The Harris County Flood Control District restores the bayou’s channel conveyance capacity and banks along Buffalo Bayou Park.

Working in seven phases (between Shepherd Drive and Sabine Street), the $5 million project includes removing silt and re-grading the bayou’s slopes to reduce erosion. Gentle slopes will be created on the inside bends of the bayou and graded that can serve as launch areas for canoes and kayaks. Invasive vegetation species will be cleared to allow for the removal of sediment and promote a healthier native ecosystem. The project will enhance the bayou’s ability to maintain itself naturally while preserving existing high quality trees and reintroducing native trees and vegetation.

LANDSCAPING

Working in conjunction with the site’s topography and predicated on a strong maintenance plan, landscaping of the park’s entire 160 acres will restore diversity and balance to the terrain.

Under the leadership of SWA Group and Boston’s Reed Hilderbrand, and through a partnership with Katy Prairie Conservancy, Buffalo Bayou Buffalo Bayou Partnership will reintroduce native landscapes to restore diversity to the park’s riparian edge and in wetlands, rambles, woodlands, meadows, lawns and special perennial gardens. Approximately 50 percent of the landscape will be replaced with meadows to improve the habitat and reduce overall maintenance costs. The improvements to riparian corridors and wetland gardens will help control erosion while rambles will be restored for the more adventurous walker. The park’s topography will be emphasized by creating overlooks, as well as enhanced ravines and outfalls. At the most dramatic vista points, shelters will provide shade and seating. Improvements to riparian corridors and wetland gardens will help control erosion while rambles will be restored for the more adventurous walker. Shaded woodland areas will open up to “outdoor rooms” creating a rhythm of shade and light, cool and warm, quiet and more active spaces. Meadows will be beautified with wildflowers and native grasses, and a limited number of high-profile gardens composed of native perennials will accent key park destinations. Read about Lost Lake and the Wortham Fountain Area and learn more about our partnership with the Katy Prairie Conservancy.

Major Destinations

  • Major Destinations

    Significant enhancements will be made to Eleanor Tinsley Park, Wortham Fountain and the “unofficial” dog park. Two new destinations—The Water Works and Lost Lake—will anchor the east and west ends of the park.

  • The Water Works

    The Water Works will be the park’s major gateway.

    Nestled at the park’s main entry, the 4.5-acre site is elevated above an historic City of Houston reservoir. With stunning views of Houston’s downtown skyline, The Water Works Skylawn is destined to become one of the most popular sites for visitors.

    Major components of The Water Works include:

    • Entry Court and Information Center The information center will become a recognizable gathering spot, complete with a bike rental facility, food truck vendors and restrooms. Approximately 50 new parking spaces will be available in this location which is in addition to the existing 400+ spaces available in the City of Houston’s Lot H (off Memorial and Houston Avenue). Read more about the available parking at Buffalo Bayou Park.

    • Skylawn + Pavilion Approximately the size of a football field, the elevated Skylawn will offer an event venue for up to 3,000 people. Providing stunning views of Houston’s skyline, it will become a popular space for outdoor events. The pavilion will provide a formal stage for concerts and performances. The Water Works will provide a unique and memorable venue for annual Buffalo Bayou Partnership events, as well as offer a space for other organizations and corporations to utilize. Did you know that underneath The Water Works site is an abandoned City of Houston reservoir? Read more.

  • Nature Playground

    Located along the slopes near The Water Works, an accessible children’s play environment will be designed around natural features.

    The 28,000-square foot nature playground will be located south of the Historic Water Works and the Skate Park near Sabine Street. The playground will celebrate the outdoors. From a boulder rock scramble to a rolling lawn, to stream and waterfall, to the sand and water play zone, this playground is meant for the rough and tumble toddlers and grade schoolers.

    The playground will also feature a “treehouse”/boat deck with climbing net and a lengthy slide.

    Parents will have easy access to parking, restrooms, park staff and the option of renting the playground’s picnic pavilion. Thanks to the Ray C. Fish Foundation for its generous $1 million grant for this play area.

  • Eleanor Tinsley Park

    Already well-known for its skyline views and large community events, plans for this park area enhance its natural setting and reduce the clutter that detracts from its beauty.

    Thanks to a $2 million donation from Houston-based Silver Eagle Distributors, the event meadow in Eleanor Tinsley Park has been transformed with a signature lawn and an open-air pavilion. Other improvements included upgraded infrastructure for special events at the park, a trail providing a direct connection to Sabine Promenade for cyclists, joggers and event attendees, upgraded landscaping, redesigned parking spaces, and an improved garden area. In recognition of the gift, the event meadow will be the Bud Light Amphitheater and the Skyline Overlook will be the Nau Family Pavilion.

  • Dog Park

    Perhaps one of the park’s most active destinations is the dog park, located near Allen Parkway and Montrose Boulevard.

    On any given day, dogs and their owners will be converging in the large open meadow. The addition of a decorative fence will transform this much-used area into an “official” dog park. New ponds – one each for small and large dogs – will be created along a low-lying former bayou meander and shaded by existing canopy trees. A wetland area will help cleanse the water. Shelters will provide additional respite for dog owners. Approximately 17 new parallel parking spaces will be added along the Allen Parkway frontage road providing safe access to this high-traffic area. Read more about the available parking at Buffalo Bayou Park.

  • Wortham Fountain Area

    The area between Waugh Bridge and Studemont Bridge is defined by the Wortham “Dandelion Fountain.”

    While the fountain itself will not be touched, its setting will be greatly enhanced. The garden area will extend toward the bayou from the fountain’s new seating area, which will feature a triple row of Mexican sycamore arranged in a semi-circle. The garden will offer a path of mowed grass, seat walls and shade structures set in a woodland garden of shade trees, native flowering trees and hardy native perennials. Inspired by the project, the Wortham Foundation and River Oaks Garden Club gifted Buffalo Bayou Partnership with generous gifts of $5 million and $100,000, respectively.

  • Lost Lake

    At the western end of the park will be Lost Lake, a site where a pond that was lost in the 1970s will be restored.

    Located near Allen Parkway and Dunlavy, the Lost Lake area will feature beautiful gardens surrounding the lake,a small visitor center, restrooms, picnic pavilion, boating concession, paddlecraft launch and visitor parking.

    Water will cascade from a feature near street level into the pond, which forms the heart of this garden. A focal point for the park, the garden will include a robust variety of sweet gum, magnolia and bald cypress canopy trees; redbud and sweetbay magnolia understory trees; various shrubs including Florida anise, coralberry, itea and others; mayapple and hollyfern groundcovers; wetland plants like Louisiana iris, water lily, arrowhead and green arrow alum. Inspired by the project and the vision for Lost Lake, The Garden Club of Houston awarded Buffalo Bayou Partnership a record-setting gift of $250,000 for this garden area. Approximately 81 new parking spaces will be available at Lost Lake.

LIGHTING

With the downtown skyline as a backdrop, the lunar lighting cycle environmental art concept, already in place at Sabine Promenade, will become a major focal point extending to Shepherd Drive.

To make the bridges and architecture iconic features at night, the lighting along the major Sandy Reed Memorial Trail, will transition from white, to blue, to white as the moon waxes, wanes, and waxes again. Some footpaths and areas closer to the bayou will remain dark at night while certain special destinations will be lit for nighttime use.

ART

Buffalo Bayou Partnership has commissioned new pieces of art to become focal points for Buffalo Bayou Park.

The artists and pieces were selected by a committee led by the Houston Arts Alliance (HAA). These artworks will be installed toward the end of the park’s renovation. Stay tuned for more information as we unveil the names of the artists and their design concepts in the coming months.

Consultants

  • Guy Hagstette Project Management