In early January, the Houston Chronicle highlighted one of Buffalo Bayou Park’s most fascinating features. Below the signature lawn being developed as The Water Works performance area, north of the existing Lee and Joe Jamail Skate Park, sits an unused City of Houston water reservoir. This 100,000-square-foot area has enormous potential. While there is currently no funding to develop the “Cistern,” as it has been dubbed, Houston-based SmartGeoMetrics has volunteered to produce 3D imaging of the cavernous space. Their work will help BBP accurately document the Cistern’s current as-is condition, conceptualize ideas for developing the space, and, with luck, facilitate funding. Imaging is expected to be completed by late summer. SmartGeoMetrics’ imaging will be given to the University of Houston’s Texas Learning and Computation Center (TLC2) who will vet a web-based public ideas process to come up with creative and sustainable potential uses. Stay tuned for details on this public ideas process!
Friends of Buffalo Bayou Partnership will recall SWA Group leading the award-winning Sabine Promenade Project. SWA Group is once again collaborating with Buffalo Bayou Partnership on the design of Buffalo Bayou Park improvements. As one of the world’s top landscape architecture and planning firms, SWA has designed countless projects in Houston and around the world. Their work includes revitalization of the landscape architecture of Hermann Park and framework planning for Houston’s Brays Bayou Corridor, among others. The Buffalo Bayou Park team is led by President Kevin Shanley, who has been involved in innovative flood management projects along a majority of Houston bayous. Rounding out the skilled team are Scott McCready, lead designer, and Tim Peterson, project manager.
Due to the magnitude of the Buffalo Bayou Park Shepherd to Sabine Project, skilled management is essential. Leading this effort is Guy Hagstette, immediate past president of downtown Houston’s Discovery Green park, with consultant SWA Group. Guy has a long history of involvement with Buffalo Bayou, dating back to the mid-1980’s when he and a team of architects won a national competition to design downtown’s Sesquicentennial Park. For the past 25 years, he has been at the forefront of major urban design initiatives in Houston while serving as Director of Planning and Development for the Houston Downtown Management District and as a Special Assistant for Urban Design to Mayor Bill White. All of us at Buffalo Bayou Partnership are honored to have Guy as part of our team.
In mid-May, representatives from city-wide and nearby neighborhood groups toured Buffalo Bayou Park. Consultant Guy Hagstette and the Flood Control District’s Sandra Musgrove and Long Nguyen helped familiarize attendees with the District’s upcoming channel restoration and BBP’s park improvements.
The tour focused on park areas east of Taft where the majority of BBP’s construction will begin. Channel restoration work will begin in the Glenwood Cemetery and Police Memorial areas, and then focus immediately upstream and downstream. After completing these sites, the District with consultant AECOM, will work steadily upstream for the next30 months. For the most part, the District will focus on earthwork, removal of invasive vines, selected trees and new native plantings, with one unstable sharp bend north of Allen Parkway requiring heavy construction.
BBP will be building key links in the trail and footpath system in these same areas in addition to two new bridges over Buffalo Bayou: one providing access to the Police Memorial, and the other at Jackson Hill where it will tie to an existing pedestrian bridge over Memorial Drive.
BBP began a planting test that builds upon Harris County Flood Control District’s work upstream of the Sabine Street Bridge in late 2011. HCFCD tested a technique for removal of silt, invasive vines and various trees along this 1,000-foot stretch, but unfortunately last summer’s drought interrupted plans to re-vegetate the channel’s edge. BBP is now proceeding with this work, which will test different native groundcovers, grasses and trees to determine which vegetation will flourish. Plants in this zone must be able to withstand long periods of high water.
It is no surprise to those of you who use Buffalo Bayou Park that construction has already begun. Last fall, Lone Star Construction, which has a contract with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), began rebuilding the 4.6-mile Sandy Reed Memorial Trail using designs overseen by the City of Houston. Considerable progress has been made. Lone Star is now concentrating on new pedestrian bridges over the Greentree Tributary east of Waugh Drive, and under the existing Shepherd Drive bridge. Trails on the north bank between Shepherd and Waugh drives also are being constructed. By late summer, the majority of all trail work should be complete with the exception of Eleanor Tinsley Park where work will begin after the Freedom Over Texas Fourth of July event. Final trail construction is slated for summer 2013.