Banking on Buffalo Bayou | Spring 2016

Dear Friends:

It is a very exciting time for Houston with a great deal of media attention focused on the city – the recent Republican presidential debate, the upcoming NCAA Final Four, and of course the 2017 Super Bowl. Equally exciting is the national attention being paid to Houston’s natural environment. On March 11-13, Houston’s green spaces were featured at the conference, Leading with Landscape: The Houston Transformation, sponsored by the Washington DC-based Cultural Landscape Foundation. The conference opened with talks and panel discussions where participants examined the city’s landscape legacy and explored the national and international implications of the design work previously and currently underway in Discovery Green, Emancipation Park, Hermann Park, Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, Memorial Park and of course, Buffalo Bayou Park. The day-long conference set the stage for What’s Out There Weekend, where experts led tours at more than 30 sites throughout the city.

With the spotlight on Houston in so many ways, the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau (GHCVB) and Houston First, the local government corporation that manages the city’s convention center, downtown Hilton-Americas and major cultural arts facilities, are working diligently to promote Houston as a leisure tourism destination. Houston First’s recently released Tourism Development Plan states: “Making leisure tourism a priority, expanding the promotion of leisure tourism, continuing to enhance the area’s attractions and tourism infrastructure, and increasing the quality of the visitor experience can provide extraordinary opportunity.”

In developing the tourism plan, New York consultant Alan Pater met several times with BBP representatives. He remarks, “Buffalo Bayou is not only a wonderful lifestyle asset for Houstonians but its potential as an important tourism attraction is substantial. Its growing number of activities, combined with its scenic natural setting and proximity to many of the city’s cultural, historic and culinary offerings, can be a vital ingredient in drawing leisure visitors to the region.”

As Buffalo Bayou Partnership continues to revitalize our city’s historic waterway, we will be working with the GHCVB and Houston First to promote the city as a leisure tourism destination. Our projects reflect sustainable tourism because we are restoring Houston’s natural and cultural assets. We’re all about enhancing our city’s uniqueness and protecting its heritage and environment. We are also working hard to encourage Houstonians and visitors to get out of their cars to walk and bike. Our goal is to first make Buffalo Bayou a recreational and cultural attraction for our city’s residents. If Houstonians appreciate our city’s historic waterway, then we are confident that visitors will be attracted to Houston’s most iconic landscape.

With Buffalo Bayou’s trees budding, wildflower and prairie areas blooming, and projects sprouting up all along the waterway – it’s spring: a time of growth, renewal and exploration. Enjoy!


Collin Cox                                  Anne Olson
Board Chair                                President

Leading with Landscape: The Houston Transformation

Along with Anne Olson, BBP President, Scott McCready, SWA Group Partner, lead a Buffalo Bayou Park tour during What’s Out There Weekend, a companion event to the Leading With Landscape: The Houston Transformation conference. In addition to visiting destinations such as Lost Lake and The Water Works, the group received an exclusive sneak peek at the Cistern, the park’s underground architectural gem.
The What’s Out There Houston Guidebook, which is available for purchase, complements the comprehensive interactive online platform that includes essays, overarching narratives, maps, historic photographs and biographical profiles. The guide is one of a number of online compendia of urban landscapes produced by The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

Musings and Memorable Quotes from Leading with Landscape: The Houston Transformation

“Houston seems to act as though it were an economic invention rather than a place affected by terrain, climate and ecology. Recent major public landscape initiatives challenge this presumption by constructing (or re-constructing) public spaces that seek to engage Houstonians in more intense interactions with natural life and invite them to interact with one another.”
“The redevelopment of Buffalo Bayou Park represents a collective effort by the city to establish a path forward in re-thinking the city’s connection to its waterfront.”
“The next era of Houston will be when nature and urban merge.”
“The missing piece has been the pedestrian and it is natural that we turn to landscape architects to find our way back home.”

Buffalo Bayou Partnership Receives Tourism Marketing Grant

photo courtesy of GHCVB/Visit Houston
Buffalo Bayou Partnership is honored to be a recipient of a Houston First and VisitHouston 2016 Marketing Matching Grant. This inaugural program, “seeks to actively encourage the development of partnerships between attractions, the hospitality industry and destination marketing organizations to better promote leisure tourism to the greater Houston area as well as surrounding counties of southeast Texas.” As part of this program, organizations were required to join with at least one partner to implement their tourism initiatives. BBP received a $20,000 grant to implement the project, “Houston’s Buffalo Bayou – An Urban Adventure.” Building upon a long-standing partnership with downtown’s Hotel ICON, BBP is collaborating with this acclaimed downtown property to offer specialized packages and programming for leisure and business travelers to more easily discover and utilize Buffalo Bayou. By marketing the recreational, educational and cultural benefits of the waterway, this project will increase visitation to the region and help create sustainable tourism in Houston.
BBP was one of 14 non-profits and businesses to receive a Marketing Matching Grant. The organization also will be partnering with Houston Wilderness and other environmental groups on a $12,000 grant to expand Get Out Here Houston, a comprehensive website and mobile app that promotes outdoor activities and events throughout the Gulf Coast region.

Sunset Coffee Building – Heritage Tourism

Buffalo Bayou Partnership and Houston First also are partnering on another major project – restoration of the historic Sunset Coffee Building at Allen’s Landing. After almost two years of construction, the building is nearing completion. Destined to become a major bayou and downtown destination, the 12,000-square-foot facility will house boating and biking concessions, a rooftop terrace that will be available for rental, a café and BBP’s administrative office.
Regular programming will take place at the site, and BBP will also utilize the Allen’s Landing embarcadero as a launching point for its popular pontoon boat tours. Walking tours that highlight the bayou’s history and historic Market Square District also will begin from this site.
We first want Houstonians, especially school children, to learn more about their city’s history and as a result, establish a site that can be used for heritage tourism which the National Trust defines as “traveling to experience the places, artifacts and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past.” Studies consistently show that heritage tourism travelers stay longer and spend more money than other types of travelers. According to the Texas Historical Commission, heritage tourism is a $7.3 billion industry in Texas and accounts for more than 10.5 percent of all travel in Texas.

Birding and Boating on Buffalo Bayou – Nature Tourism

Did you know that birding is a $1.8 billion business in Texas and the state hosts more bird species than any other in the US? To promote this abundance and diversity, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) created the Great Coastal Birding Trail, a system of bird sanctuaries, nature preserves and trails along the entire length of the Texas Gulf Coast. The trail is comprised of 15 separate loops, including Buffalo Bayou. Buffalo Bayou Park, Sam Houston Park, Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, Hermann Park and lower White Oak Bayou are all part of the trail system. 
In 2009, TPWD designated a 26-mile stretch along Buffalo Bayou one of its official paddling trails. Canoers and kayakers can take pleasure in the natural scenery, birds, turtles, fish and other wildlife from Highway 6 in west Houston to downtown’s doorstep at Allen’s Landing. The Buffalo Bayou Paddling Trail is one of 70 paddling trails throughout the state. Houston’s trail is sponsored by the Bayou Preservation Association, BBP and Houston Canoe Club.
Houston Paddling Trail Access Points: Highway 6, Terry Hershey Park, Dairy Ashford Road, West Sam Houston Parkway, Briar Bend Park, Memorial Park at Woodway, Hogg Bird Sanctuary, Eleanor Tinsley Park, Sabine Promenade and Allen’s Landing

Houston Bird Count

photo courtesy of Houston Parks and Recreation Department
Every year in December, Houston Audubon Society conducts the all-volunteer Christmas Bird Count as part of the National Audubon event that monitors birds’ status and distribution across the western hemisphere. This past year, Buffalo Bayou Park was the site of Houston Parks & Recreation Department’s Houston Christmas Bird Count. Two groups, one on foot and another on BBP’s pontoon boat, counted more than 40 species, including Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Carolina Wrens, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets and Ospreys. Now that it’s spring, get out your binoculars and take a look at Cardinals, American Robins, Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Mockingbirds and Kingfishers.
Buffalo Bayou Partnership is the non-profit organization revitalizing and transforming Buffalo Bayou, Houston’s most significant natural resource.

Collin Cox, Board Chair
Anne Olson, President

Getting the Word Out

Buffalo Bayou and Buffalo Bayou Partnership are prominently featured in the book, Rebuilding the American City: Design and Strategy for the 21st Century. Authors David Gamble and Patty Heyda present 15 case studies that include narratives highlighting the projects’ design and implementation, followed by interviews with people directly involved in the life of the projects. In the chapter, “Urban Park Systems:  Leveraging Underdeveloped Land and Infrastructure,” Buffalo Bayou is described as the “center of a new connective landscape that rejoins the city under a highway network and creates an environment of sublime beauty.” The waterway’s transformation is seen through the eyes of Anne Olson, BBP President, Kevin Shanley, SWA Principal, Mike Talbott, Harris County Flood Control District Executive Director, and Jane Thompson and Pratap Talwar, consultants who developed the Buffalo Bayou and Beyond Master Plan.

In the News

Room with a bayou view, Houston Chronicle, March 13, 2016
Houston looks to reinvent landscape one park at a time, Houston Chronicle, March 10, 2016
36 Hours in Houston, The New York Times, February 14, 2016
New nature park provides green space in East End, Houston Chronicle, February 10, 2016
Bucking Houston’s Teardown Trend, Construction Business Owner Magazine, February 2016
Revitalizing park brings natural charm to downtown Houston, Civil Engineering News, January 2016
Houston’s big green transformation, Huffington Post, January 21, 2016
Houston’s Park Partners: Greening for the Future, City Parks Blog, December 14, 2015
Help BBP continue to revitalize and transform Buffalo Bayou, Houston's most significant resource.
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