Robbie Carson makes about a 10-mile trek from his home in Candlelight Oaks to his tattoo studio in Sawyer Yards, often riding his electronic skateboard on the White Oak Bayou Greenway trail.
A 600-yard section of the trail that goes underneath West T.C. Jester Boulevard, just north of West 34th Street, has been closed since July 7. That has forced Carson to make a small detour, at least on most days, he said, on his way to The Left Eye, Tattoo and Fine Arts Gallery, 1824 Spring St. Suite 229.
He rode through the closed-off portion Monday afternoon, when the barricades were not sufficient enough to keep him from doing so and there was no construction work being done. Going underneath the bridge also provided some cover, albeit briefly, on a rainy day.
“It’s very inconvenient,” Carson said of the partial trail closure. “I don’t really cut through a lot.”
Trail users in the Oak Forest area could be inconvenienced for at least the rest of the summer. The aforementioned section is indefinitely closed because of a sinkhole that has developed underneath the concrete trail where it meanders close to the bayou and under the bridge on West T.C. Jester.
Trent Rondot, the conservation and maintenance director for the Houston Parks Board, said in a statement that the sinkhole is related to a storm sewer pipe that runs underneath that part of the trail and empties into the bayou. A spokesperson for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), which has the discretionary authority to repair and replace the 20-year-old trail, said it is surveying the situation in conjunction with the parks board and Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD).
A spokesperson for the parks board said late last week that repairs were expected to begin in August and would take about 60 days to complete. But earlier this week, the parks board said, “It is too early to say when repairs will begin or how long they are expected to take.”
“We are still investigating the cause of the sinkhole and developing a path forward,” the USACE said in a statement. “Once we make that determination, we will coordinate with HCFCD and Houston Parks Board on roles and responsibilities to replace the hike and bike trail.
“The start and finish dates for repairs will be determined after the cause of the sinkhole is resolved,” the USACE added.
In the meantime, a detour has been established for trail users, who must utilize the sidewalk on the north side of 34th Street between West T.C. Jester and East T.C. Jester Boulevard as well as the sidewalk along West T.C. Jester. The latter sidewalk runs along the east side of the street until right before the bridge, where it crosses over to the west side of the street and proceeds north.
An illustration of the project area and detour can be found here.
Detour signs, along with orange fencing and signage to indicate where the trail is closed and where the sinkhole is located, have been installed by the parks board. According to a July 8 Facebook post by the Houston Heights Association, citing the parks board, the roughly 30-foot section of the trail above the sinkhole, along with the concrete slopes above and below the trail, are unstable.
“While it is unfortunate the greenway trail must remain closed while repairs take place, the safety of trail users is paramount,” Rondot said. “We ask that all greenways users follow the detour route … and remember to share the sidewalks with other walkers, runners and cyclists using the same paths.”