We didn't know we needed Buffalo Bayou Park.
No one was clamoring for our own version of Central Park or Navy Pier; no one was holding their breath for a dramatic makeover of the waterway best known for eating cars and flooding. We had our makeshift dog park at Allen Parkway and Montrose, a few dug-out put-in spots along the bayou that only the truly adventurous took advantage of, and a couple of hidden wetlands areas that felt like places out of time, trapped between the riparian edge of the silt-brown water and the traffic screaming past on Memorial Drive.
But if Houston at large isn’t great at identifying its needs, the folks at the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, which celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, are. Because since they officially opened the brand-new Buffalo Bayou Park to the public in October 2015, it has been an unparalleled success.
Day and night, pedestrians walk the park’s five-foot-wide asphalt Kinder Footpaths, kids clamber over felled logs and beat on colorful drums in the Barbara Fish Daniel Nature Play Area, cyclists whiz down the Sandy Reed Memorial Trail that hugs the water near Shepherd Drive, and dogs dash through the ponds at the Johnny Steele Dog Park (turns out we really did need that one). In just 16 months, the park has become a landmark on par with the Astrodome…only more useful. It turns out Houstonians really do enjoy getting outdoors.
Built in typically Houstonian style through a public-private partnership, the $58 million undertaking was financed in part by a $30 million donation from the Kinder Foundation (the same folks who made Discovery Green possible), with the aim of building a beating heart out of the city’s main artery, Buffalo Bayou, which has been the source of creation in Houston since the Allen Brothers founded our big, sprawling swamp on its banks in 1836. And it’s the non-profit Buffalo Bayou Partnership alone—not the City of Houston, nor any other public entity—that’s responsible for maintaining the 160-acre park and its 10-mile waterway, making it even more unusual among its national peers.
Most important: The park is built to flood, unlike most other areas of our city, meaning that our fabulous new front porch will be here to welcome generations of Houstonians to come. Within these pages, Houstonia’s guide to everything you need to know to make the most out of our city’s newest civic treasure.