Chronicle: Can White Oak Shed Its Concrete?

Lined by concrete surfaces to better channel floodwaters, the bayou northwest of downtown draws walkers and bikers to its walkways, but much of the corridor is hardly a scenic gathering place. In contrast, Houstonians flock to nearby Buffalo Bayou Park, where the waterway flows through a natural landscape of trees, plants and grasses.

"It would be so nice to be walking along something that was more like Buffalo Bayou," said Lee, a resident of Houston's Heights neighborhood for more than 30 years who sits on the White Oak Bayou Association board.

Now, aging infrastructure and costly repairs are prompting the Harris County Flood Control District and a local redevelopment authority to take a second look at the White Oak Bayou's design.

They are assessing whether portions of the concrete lining can be replaced or retooled while boosting the bayou's ability to handle floodwaters.

Although the study is just getting underway and improvements could be years away if they occur at all, the study holds the promise of more trails, natural features and meandering channels for the bayou corridor, which in turn could spur economic development.