As Houston turns the page on becoming a more walkable and bike-friendly metropolis, the construction of the East Downtown Trail is the city’s newest addition for those who prefer to explore all that nature has to offer.
First breaking ground in 2020, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership (BBP) and the Houston Parks Board (HPB), also collaborating with the City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department and Downtown Redevelopment Authority, executed this $8.7 million development to connect the southern bank of Buffalo Bayou to Austin Street Downtown. The 0.4-mile hike extension and park consist of a series of small open spaces connecting neighboring communities and destinations—and producing new routes to roads like Main Street and Congress Street that are otherwise difficult to access.
“This addition is a huge accomplishment for connectivity in Houston. While the segment is only 0.4 miles, it was extremely complex to design, engineer, and construct,” said HPB and BBP representatives in an email to Houstonia. “This trail segment is a key link between the west sector of Buffalo Bayou and points east, where Houston Parks Board and Buffalo Bayou Partnership are both working on creating contiguous trails along the waterfront.”
Beginning at Allen’s Landing or, as the BBP likes to call it, Houston’s “Plymouth Rock,” the trail continues through the heavily trafficked downtown streets, weaving under the Fannin Street bridge, along Commerce Street, beneath the San Jacinto bridge, through the second-floor basement level of the Wilson Building, and concluding under the Harris County Sheriff’s Inmate Processing Center.
“The existing buildings between San Jacinto St. and Austin St. posed the biggest challenge for constructing the trail,” the HPB/BBP statement added. “Since the buildings extend all the way to the water’s edge, we had to construct the trail through them.”
The trail then opens to a new park along the bayou on either side of Austin Street. The artery’s cul-de-sac has now been converted into a public commons named the Joe Campos Torres Memorial Plaza.
While small, the East Downtown Trail is an essential puzzle piece of the Buffalo Bayou East master plan. The ultimate goal is to build connectivity in the four-mile stretch from Buffalo Bayou Park to the Port of Houston Turning Basin to generate an ecosystem of many parks and trails along Houston’s waterfront and greenways.
There are no talks yet as far as offered programming in the newly opened space, but because of its unique features and acoustics, it definitely inspires ideas for the near future. If you are looking for a creative way to enjoy the new greenway’s essence with a summertime activity, the BBP pontoon boat departs from nearby Allen’s Landing and offers immaculate views of the trail.
As temperatures continue to rise to 90 degrees and higher, what better way is there to beat the summer heat while outdoors than out on the water?