Think the Buffalo Bayou Partnership’s work is done? Not even close. They’re already hard at work on the next leg of redevelopment, in an area currently called the East Sector: the 10-mile stretch along the bayou east of Allen’s Landing, all the way out to the Port of Houston Turning Basin. But don’t expect more of the same.
“Unlike Buffalo Bayou Park, where there was already a park, the infrastructure isn’t there,” says Anne Olson, the Partnership’s president. “It’s a post-industrial landscape. We own some pretty interesting sites out there, and all of these sites are staying as-is—we don’t plan to tear anything down. We want to highlight the industrial heritage of the area.”
Olson stresses that this is a “multi-generational plan”—think 20 to 30 years—as the Partnership is still in the process of acquiring land to connect all the hike-and-bike trails, as well as hiring an architect to make a detailed plan for some of the spots along the way. They’re also appealing to community leaders in the Fifth Ward and the East End to help them come up with a plan that will make the bayou well-used and -loved by the community.
“We’re focused on connecting the neighborhoods to the bayou, both the historically black Fifth Ward and the largely Hispanic East End,” she says. “The neighborhoods around Buffalo Bayou Park were pretty much developed. In the East Sector, these neighborhoods are still in development, so they will play a bigger part in our plans. We’re cognizant of the gentrification happening, and we want to make sure and bring the older residents along.”
4 Cool Things Happening in the East Sector:
1. Gravel Silos
These four massive silos, vestiges of the East End’s industrial past, are currently being used for public art events, including projections on the silos’ outside walls. “Artists just love these industrial remnants,” Olson says.
2. Japhet Creek
This creek running through the Fifth Ward into the bayou is one of its few tributaries that’s not covered or paved. Thanks to a grant-funded purchase by the City of Houston, it’s now being lovingly restored by the Japhet Creek Civic Association, which is busy removing trash and debris and planting native plants and wildflowers. The future will bring trails along both sides leading to the bayou.
3. The Yolanda Black Navarro Buffalo Bend Nature Park
Located near the Port of Houston Turning Basin, the 10-acre Buffalo Bend Nature Park is a refuge from the industrial landscape of the Ship Channel, complete with wetland ponds and native plantings. Hike-and-bike trails run through the area, which will eventually extend to the nearby Hidalgo Park.
4. Northside Sewage Treatment Facility
The Partnership assumed ownership of this facility, which has been idle for more than two decades, in 2012. While the plan is to turn the facility into an ecological park, much of the plant’s infrastructure, which includes several aeration tanks that resemble huge ponds, will remain.
What’s the Big Deal About Allen’s Landing, Anyway?
You may have heard this spot described as Houston’s own Plymouth Rock. While that’s a little hyperbolic (there’s not even a rock!), it is the place where the city’s founders, John Kirby Allen and Augustus Chapman Allen, established the city’s first port in 1837. Here, steamers like the Laura (the first boat to dock in Houston) once came through, bringing the growing town everything from sugar to sheep.
When the Laura arrived here in January 1837, her crew found the bayou congested with branches and the nascent city woefully small, with only 12 residents. Meanwhile, Galveston, with its much larger port downstream, already had two newspapers, the largest population in Texas and exports to foreign countries in excess of $1 million by 1840.
But thanks in part to Allen’s Landing, Houston would eventually catch up: By 1930, the Bayou City had three newspapers, the largest population in the state and $4 million of yearly foreign tonnage overseen by a brand-new Port Bureau, which had expanded the port and cleared out all those branches. Today, the 25-mile-long Port of Houston is the busiest in the U.S. for foreign tonnage, moving a record-setting 2 million containers in 2015 alone—and it all started here.