How Buffalo Bayou Park will bounce back after Harvey

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- In the days following Hurricane Harvey, 160-acre Buffalo Bayou Park disappeared almost completely beneath the raging floodwaters tearing their way toward the Gulf.

At its peak, Buffalo Bayou rose nearly 40 feet above its banks at Shepherd Drive, according to the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, submerging one of the city's largest and most popular green spaces. Staircases that normally led to running paths suddenly became roads to nowhere, while street signs and lamps that tower over runners and bicyclists barely poked above the rushing water.

The upper portions of the park, however, are now dry, and cleanup is already underway to restore the park to its former glory. Maintenance crews are working to clear silt from formerly flooded concrete pathways, remove fallen trees and pick up trash and other debris that collected in the park during the flood.

Many of the upper paths are completely accessible along the Allen Parkway side of the park, and the Memorial Drive side is drying out by the day.

But here's the bad news for Houston's adventurers: Two weeks after Harvey hit, the bottom portion of the park remains underwater and is expected to remain flooded for the foreseeable future as engineers continue to release water from reservoirs upstream.

While the lower portion of the park may look completely devastated, it fared better than you may have expected. The park and its fixtures were designed to withstand flooding events, so many of the signs, benches, art installations, gazebos and other fixtures lower in the park are expected to emerge from the floodwaters relatively intact.

According to the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, the trail lighting system sustained damage, as did the Wortham Fountain that sits near Waugh Drive. The partnership also lost the majority of its maintenance equipment, which is stored in a yard along Memorial Drive, in the flooding.

Unsurprisingly, Bayou City Adventures has suspended boat and kayak rentals through the end of the year, and Bike Barn is closed until further notice.

Nonetheless, the partnership has pledged to get the park back into working order as soon as possible while also analyzing Harvey's impact to help better plan for future flooding events.

"As the weeks and months proceed, we do hope that you will take time out to visit Buffalo Bayou and other greenspaces throughout our city," Buffalo Bayou Partnership Anne Olson wrote in an email. "Whether it's a walk, run or time of contemplation, the parks and trails are places where people from all walks of life come together."

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