Building the Bayou Greenways: White Oak Bayou

In a series of blog posts throughout the year, we will highlight the progress made along each of Houston’s Bayou Greenways as part of the Houston Parks Board’s Kinder Foundation-supported Bayou Greenways 2020 project. This is the fourth in the series.

Houston Parks Board began construction on the missing links of White Oak Bayou Greenway at the end of 2014, and since then, Houston Parks Board and its partners have made remarkable progress. In fact, this first Bayou Greenway is nearing completion.

White Oak Bayou Greenway spans 16 miles. Starting at the bayou’s confluence with Buffalo Bayou at Allen’s Landing, the greenway heads upstream past UH Downtown, the Lionel Castillo Community Center, Stude Park, historic Olivewood Cemetery, TC Jester Park, and out to the Hollister Detention Basin at the city limits. It was the first Bayou Greenway trail to start and to ultimately be completed, in part because nearly 10 miles of existing trail by other entities had already helped set the Bayou Greenways precedent. To complete the greenway, the Houston Parks Board constructed the additional 6 miles of new trails – as well as 2 new bridges including a bridge over White Oak Bayou that connects the existing Heights Hike & Bike Trail to the Greenway. Funding for that bridge and part of the greenway was provided by the Memorial Heights Tax Incremental Zone. Major contributors to White Oak Bayou Greenway also included the Houston Endowment, Brown Foundation, Wortham Foundaton, Fondren Foundation, and a federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant.

Because much of the greenway had already been established, the Houston Parks Board used Kinder Foundation funds primarily to acquire and preserve green space in a specific spot on White Oak Bayou. In 2016, the Parks Board used foundation funds to supplement the City of Houston’s purchase of a 7-acre site along the bayou at De Soto Street, which housed a dilapidated apartment complex. After the City demolished the apartment complex, the Parks Board restored the site as added Greenway landscaped open space.

White Oak Bayou Greenway with former Oakbrook Apartment site in distance.
Photo by Chip Place, May 2018

White Oak Bayou Greenway is also the first bayou greenway to boast a complete mile marker system, furnished by the Houston Parks Board in partnership with Houston Police Department. The trail markers, placed every quarter mile, are part of the overall wayfinding system of Bayou Greenways 2020, allowing runners and cyclists to track their distances. They also serve as a safety measure in the event of an emergency; users can identify their locations to HPD, who can identify these access points for dispatch.

Houston Parks Board is also assisting the City of Houston in completing one other small segment along the greenway at Stude Park. White Oak Bayou Greenway’s completion is momentous, and marks the beginning of the conclusion of Houston’s most ambitious parks project to date. Working with the Kinder Foundation, Houston Parks Board’s search for more green space along this greenway continues. Read about White Oak Bayou Greenway and stay tuned for updates and highlights on the remaining Bayou Greenways.