Arboretum opens new Ravine Trail

May 1, 2019

The Ravine Trail at the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center has reopened after being closed for the last three years, and closed for eight out of 14 years.

According to the Arboretum’s Marketing and Development Manager, Christine Mansfield, the ravine is a tributary to Buffalo Bayou, and it goes through all of the floods and erosion that other waterways in Houston have experienced as well.

“It was a hard place to get to be safe for the public. There have been trail washouts and one of the bridges toppled over during Harvey,” Mansfield said.

The old Ravine Trail used to have two bridges, a land bridge and a wooden one. Now the Ravine Trail has two new bridges, and both are raised higher over the ravine, allowing for water to flow more naturally underneath.

The new bridges are longer and go over a straight area of the ravine. The bridges are steel with concrete floors. The older bridges were at bends, which tend to be the most impacted spaces during floods.

Parts of the trail, which is just over half a mile long, features mulch, which Mansfield says will be much easier to replace if it gets washed out in future flooding events.

“We have learned from past experiences,” Mansfield said.

Another feature of the Ravine Trail is a steel boardwalk that brings walkers closer to the ravine itself. The decking is a fiberglass grate material, which will last longer than traditional wood materials.

Visitors to the trail will notice that there is coconut fiber netting along some of the banks.

“It will reduce erosion as things grow in. We really wanted to work with nature’s timing. We are allowing things to grow and get good root systems. In the long run it will create a nice effect and be stable,” Mansfield said.

The Arboretum worked with Design Workshop, Inc., a recognized landscape architecture, planning and urban design firm. Design Workshop, Inc has worked with the Arboretum for the last few years on the Arboretum’s master plan.

“Having the Ravine Trail finally back open has been a huge goal for the master plan,” Conners Ladner, Office Director with Design Workshop, Inc., said.

Ladner noted that the Ravine Trail was developed with a series of design principles. This included having to stabilize the ravine to assist with impacts of ongoing flooding. The stabilization was done as naturally as possible to keep the ravine authentic.

Another goal was to clear the evasive plants and protect the tree canopy.

“The existing landscape is just so gorgeous. We want to fix it and heal it,” Ladner said.

One part of the trail is ADA accessible, with a path to one of the bridges. Ladner said that unfortunately the whole path was not able to be ADA accessible due to elevation changes.

Ladner noted that the overall design and completion of the trail would not have been possible without Landscape Architect partner, Reed|Hilderbrand, or without Walter P. Moore, Hydrogeo Designs, Frayre Engineering and Consulting, and Forney Construction.

“We worked with a great team. This has been a complete dream project - the opportunity to heal this landscape and build in this natural destination,” Ladner said.

According to Mansfield, this new trail is unlike anything else at the Arboretum.

“It feels a lot more like hiking instead of a stroll. There are a lot of elevation changes. It reminds me of Austin in the Hill Country. It’s a fun experience,” Mansfield said.

The Ravine Trail is in the northwest corner of the Arboretum, and is accessible from both Woodway Dr. and Loop 610 parking loops.