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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Columbia Tap Rail-Trail - Northeast Section

This trail was discovered by accident when I was researching about the Rails-to-Trails projects all across the United States. We have a few of these rail conversion projects in Houston, which we will no-doubt highlight in future blogs. Today though, we tackled the northeast half of the Columbia Tap Rail-Trail.

The trail starts in an interesting location, not in a park or a residential area as is typical for trails, but right on the edge of Old Chinatown on the near-east side of downtown Houston. In the early days, it would have, of course been a logical location for a train to cut through Houston, since that area is also an old warehouse district. The trail begins at Dowling and Walker Streets. We found this to be an intriguing part of town because there is a lot of construction going on in the area, including the BBVA Compass soccer stadium just two blocks over .There's not much parking, other than on-street parking in the vicinity of the trail head, but public (pay) parking does begin to occur about four blocks west nearer 59 Freeway and the George R. Brown Convention Center. I suspect that the Compass stadium will have pay parking as well, once it is complete this spring, but that's conjecture. 
Rail Trail (Left) - Purple Metro Line (Right)

The trail itself is relatively new concrete, and nice and wide - plenty of room for two people to walk next to one another and allow for passing bikes and other walkers. It is marked with a yellow line in the middle. The trail starts out rather nostalgically, right between two old warehouses but quickly lets into a big, easy turn, pointing us into the southwesterly direction. Just at the turn we began to see the active railroad tracks (there happened to be a train blowing its horn as we passed)  in the nearby distance. Here at this turn, right next to the trail, and much to our surprise, is a soon-to-be-completed portion of the Southeast/Purple Metro line. These new Metro lines couldn't be ready too soon for Houston and it's ever-growing population and traffic. It's was so nice to see how it's progressing. Just after the Metro line veered off in the opposite direction from the trail, we noticed quite a lot of new apartment housing on one side and business expansion on the other. 

Beyond all of the new construction and immediately to the east of the trail (between Leland and Hwy 45) is the enormous Oak Farms Dairy milk processing plant - a tidy and interesting sight lined with milk trucks. Neither of us knew it was there until we walked by. It's an impressive sight, something kids may be interested in seeing if they walk by.

The west side of 45 revealed the greater Third Ward residential area, chock full of quaint little houses and sprinkled with churches and a few small businesses. We passed by quite a few friendly folks, all seemingly headed to specific destinations. We didn't pass by many exercisers on foot, although we were passed by a few fellows on bikes. We made it to Holman St. before we got tired and turned around. I can't say there was much in the way of fauna on this walk, although we did manage a picture of some pretty flowers and over-growth. On the return trip we also spotted a hawk on a power line - seemed to be hunting in a vacant lot.

Over-all I loved this walk because it was so interesting to see the east business district and the new developments there. I think we'll take our husbands back to this trail for a bike ride. It'd be perfect for a Saturday morning bike ride.

Happy Houston Trails

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