A planning group has recently awarded Buffalo Bayou as one of the nation’s 10 “great public spaces”, according to The Houston Chronicle:
Buffalo Bayou’s transformation from a murky, yuck-inducing stream to a recreation destination earned Houston’s iconic natural resource a top honor from a national organization Wednesday.
The American Planning Association named Buffalo Bayou one of the nation’s 10 “great public spaces,” recognizing decades of efforts to turn the waterway into a vital urban amenity.
“A lot of people from other parts of the country don’t recognize how Houston is a city of people who love to be outdoors and it is a city in which you can be outdoors almost all year ‘round,” Mayor Annise Parker said at a news conference outside City Hall, overlooking the weekly farmers market.
“Sometimes you might sweat a little bit, but it is an outdoor city and we are drawn to vibrant, interesting outdoor places,” Parker said.
The APA, the nation’s primary urban planning organization, annually recognizes great neighborhoods, streets and public spaces in cities around the country. It named Montrose one of the nation’s 10 great neighborhoods in 2009.
This year’s award singled out a nine-mile stretch of Buffalo Bayou between Shepherd Drive and Turning Basin Overlook Park, highlighting the “distinctive design, amenities and public art; high level of public and private support; and ecological restoration and protection efforts.”
People using the hike-and-bike trail along the bayou near the Sabine Street bridge Wednesday said the recognition was deserved.
Peggy Moore, who lives near Memorial Park, said she bicycles 10 to 20 miles along the bayou several days a week.
“It’s beautiful,” Moore said of the improved trail. “They added crossover bridges, and it’s easier to use the trail now that it’s been repaired.”
Jean Edwards, on her lunch break from a downtown law firm, said she has been taking photos along the bayou for the past seven or eight years.
“Over the years, you can see how the area has gotten better,” she said.
While improvements to the bayou have been under way for decades, the latest project is a $55 million upgrade of Buffalo Bayou Park west of downtown. The park is scheduled for completion in 2015.
A $30 million donation from the Kinder Foundation helped launch the renovation and caught the attention of the planning association, the mayor said.
Guy Hagstette, project manager for Buffalo Bayou Park improvements, said Houstonians’ perception of the bayou is changing. “It’s a gradual thing. In some ways, it’s almost a generational process,” he said.
Hagstette recalled a biking accident he had in 1987, while he was working on the design of Sesquicentennial Park.
He told friends he had a bad accident on Loop 610, rolled over the guardrail and fell into Buffalo Bayou.
“At that point, you could hear their entire tone change - ‘Oh my God, not Buffalo Bayou,’ ” he said with a laugh. “I don’t think you would find that visceral reaction today.”