Buffalo Bayou Could Become State's First National Heritage Area

Houston politicians are trying to get a special designation for the region's most famous waterway — the Buffalo Bayou. As Laurie Johnson reports — if proposed legislation passes — the bayou would become the state's first National Heritage Area.

Houston wouldn't be what it is today without Buffalo Bayou.

Harrisburg, the precursor to Houston was built on its banks in the area that now is home to the Houston Ship Channel.  

General Santa Ana later burned Harrisburg to the ground. But a few miles upstream, the Allen brothers landed at what is now the edge of downtown Houston.

Today, the bayou stretches for 52 miles and is home to the nation's largest foreign cargo port.

That's why Congressman Gene Green says it should be designated as a National Heritage Area.

"What it would do is give us national recognition through the National Parks Service. It doesn't impact local land use, at all. But what it would do is that if nonprofit groups, or the Port of Houston, or even Harris County of the City of Houston or any of our cities want to do something to recognize the Buffalo Bayou in their community, they would be eligible for federal funds."

This isn't the first time Green has sought recognition for the bayou. He submitted similar legislation back in 2002, which never went anywhere. This year's bill has bipartisan support and is carried in the Senate by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

"Typically in Houston, we pave over whatever our history is because we're always thinking about the future. I want us also to think about the future but also look at what we're doing and where we've come from."

If the legislation passes, the bayou will become the first National Heritage Area in Texas.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...