Buffalo Bayou Promenade
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Showplace Public Park Revitalizes Degraded Bayou

Location Houston, Texas

Client Buffalo Bayou Partnership; City of Houston; Texas Department of Transportation; Harris County Flood Control District

Scope Planning, Landscape Architecture

Size 20 acres


20 acres of new parkland

Corrects erosion, pollution, and damage by invasive species

Naturalized banks support maximum flood control capacity

Expert construction design in tight urban corridor

Native perennials and 641 trees added

This project is one of the largest investments in public parkland ever carried out by the City of Houston and converts a neglected, trash-soaked eyesore into 3,000 linear feet of urban park. It adds over 20 acres of park space to Houston's inner city. It is the first major project to realize the civic and recreational potential of the waterway that literally gave birth to the City in 1836.

SWA Group was retained to create a master plan and subsequently full landscape architectural services through two miles of some of the most challenging urban conditions: overhead freeways and utilities, steep slopes, limited access and critical flood water elevations. Re-engineered sloping of banks and a series of stairs and ramps re-connect Houstonians to their native bayou. The natural channel and the soil along its banks have been stabilized through the use of gabions and the anchoring of 14,000 tons of rock and recycled concrete. Weeds and other invasive plants have been replaced by 287,000 plants (including native perennials, groundcover and 641 trees). The lighting system provides glowing orbs that follow the monthly phases of the moon: lights are blue when the new moon occurs and gradually shift to white as the full moon emerges. All lighting, plantings and walkways are designed to withstand the natural, periodic flooding of the bayou. The project provides continuous pedestrian and bike trails, public art, and special maintenance and safety provisions. The waterway now teems with ducks, herons, turtles and fish. The Corps of Engineer's existing HEC model was used to ensure that floodwater conveyance would not be compromised by the improvements.