UH to help connect the dots
In order to expand and improve parks in the Southeast area of Houston, the U.S. National Park Service chose UH as a partner in its project to combine three major greenspaces.
MacGregor Park, Park at Palm Center and Nelson (George T.) Park will be connected with the Houston Bayou Greenway Trail, creating the new 31-mile Brays Bayou Trail.
“Houston Bayou Greenway Initiative” is being coordinated by UH; the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program; and The National Park service.
Carroll Parrott Blue, principal investigator for the National Endowment for the Arts who funded Southeast Houston Arts Initiative based at UH, believes Houston has a lot more to offer than advances in energy.
“While touted as the world’s energy capital, Houston is also a lush green canopy of trees and multiple waterways of bayous, streams and lakes,” Blue said.
The goal of the project is to make more of these hidden spaces available to Houstonians, according to Margarita Reza, a chemistry freshman and leader of the UH grassroots group.
“Currently, only 27 percent of Houston community can access parkland within walking distance. With this project, that percentage will increase to 60 percent,” Reza said.
Reza noted that in order for the expansion to be successful, they need consistant financial backing.
“Our goal is to encourage City Council and keep them on board with the project,” Reza said. “Work has already started in some places, but lack of funding will impede progress.”
Roksan Okan-Vick, executive director of the Houston Parks Board, believes the project is worth the price tag.
“Houston Bayou Greenways is an approximately $480 million project that will be tackled by many public and private stakeholders in several phases over 10 to 15 years,” Okan-Vick said.
“When complete, the greater Houston area will have added 4,000 acres of new and equitably distributed green spaces that can also serve the function of flood control and storm water quality enhancement.”
Blue agrees these additions to the parks will help change Houston for the better.
“Houston’s leaders signal much promise in Houston becoming a green and sustainable city. The Houston Bayou Greenway Initiative proposes to employ a series of connecting bike and hike trails to link all bayous to each other,” Blue said.
“This new UH-Southeast Houston partnership, with the National Park Service’s RTCA program, will help us to achieve our goal of connecting UH to Southeast Houston by making most of Houston’s 656.3 sq. miles accessible by bike or hike bayou trails.”
Reza has a completion date in sight.
“We would like to see the expansion and preservation of all the Houston parks and bayou trails by 2020,” Reza said.