Putting the Bayou Back in Bayou City

  • Nature, Animals & Parks
  • 2010

The city of Houston was founded on Buffalo Bayou, which runs from the surrounding prairie through downtown to the port lands. A 158-acre park hugging its banks has long been a Houston icon and destination for residents seeking a bit of green or some exercise. But the public park suffered years of neglect and underperformance. The Buffalo Bayou Partnership was established as a nonprofit in 1986 to make better use of Houston’s most significant natural resource. In 2010, the Kinder Foundation, the family charity established by gas pipeline titan Rich Kinder and his wife, Nancy, offered the nonprofit a $30 million grant to catalyze major improvements at the park. After fundraising completed in 2015, a $56 million project was begun to restore the land surrounding the waterway to a more natural and healthy state, build trails and pedestrian bridges, improve lighting and amenities, and otherwise make the park more attractive for users.

The Kinders have provided funds to preserve and upgrade other public parks in Houston as well, including Hermann Park, home to the city zoo and other important institutions, and Emancipation Park, an historic site first purchased by freed slaves. In addition to this work reviving existing parks, the Kinders have been leaders in creating brand-new parks in their home city (see 2013 entry).