The nonprofit association Save Buffalo Bayou, along with some Houston residents, are opposing the sale of land along White Oak Bayou to the Texas Department of Transportation.

What's happening?

The city of Houston is looking to sell 126,627 square feet of city-owned land to TxDOT for $261,051 as the agency looks to reconstruct a portion of I-45 as part of the North Houston Highway Improvement Project.

According to TxDOT, the project includes improving I-45 from Beltway 8 to I-10 and rerouting I-45 through the Downtown Houston area along I-10 and Hwy. 59.

The agenda item, which was tagged last week by four Houston City Council members, will be up for a vote again at the May 22 council meeting.

However, Susan Chadwick, president of Save Buffalo Bayou, said she opposes the sale, arguing that the land in question is designated as public land and is currently used as a park or recreation area. Under the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code, legally recognized park land cannot be sold without a public hearing and 30-day public notice.

Taking a step back

Chadwick said the parcel of land up for sale contains the White Oak Bayou Greenway, a hike-and-bike recreation area that is part of the 150-mile, $220 million Houston Parks Board Bayou Greenways project.

The Bayou Greenways project aims to connect all of Houston's major bayous, and create 150 miles of trails and 3,000 acres of green space.

White Oak Bayou, according to the Houston Parks Board, starts in northwest Harris County and travels southeast to the historic Allen's Landing downtown, where it joins Buffalo Bayou.

During a series of public meetings hosted by TxDOT in 2023 regarding the NHHIP, some opponents of the project began raising awareness about how it would affect the green space along White Oak Bayou, north of the University of Houston Downtown campus, where I-45 lanes would be rerouted.

What they are saying

Now, residents and some members of the advocacy group Stop TxDOT I-45 are opposing the sale of land. During a May 21 Houston City Council public comment session, several individuals spoke out against the issue.

Some speakers asked the council to consider an easement agreement with TxDOT instead of selling the land.

"The way I was able to get to UHD every day was by walking through part of the White Oak Bayou from a bus station," speaker Mandy McBall said. "It's vital for us to understand that the bayou, and places like it, are the sole connection people use to get to places that don't involve a street or a car."

"TxDOT will not be a good steward of our public resources," speaker Chloe Cook said. "There's just no way to say that it's a public safety pro to put a heavily used and important greenway trail under 31 lanes and three on-ramps."

Council member Mario Castillo—along with Abbie Kamin, Sallie Alcorn and Julian Ramirez—tagged the item at council last week.

"I tagged this item last week because of my concerns about the sale," Castillo said. "There are a number of folks here who share the same concerns as residents. There are conversations ongoing, and we are trying to figure out some way to maintain the hike-and-bike trail that I would be comfortable moving forward with."

Stay tuned

Council member Letitia Plummer said the particular area in question has not been deemed a park by the city of Houston, but is considered recreational land.

Assistant City Attorney Randy Zamora said he will provide the answer to three pressing questions council members raised regarding the sale of land before the council takes the vote May 22.
  1. What are the requirements for the sale of public property?
  2. Are there different requirements for the sale of a piece of land that is considered recreational?
  3. Are there different rules because the city is selling the property as opposed to it being eminent domain?
Houston City Council starts at 9 a.m. in the City Hall Annex. Meetings are also live streamed on HTV.