Designating this 25-mile stretch of the Houston Ship Channel as an official National Heritage Area
As a kid growing up in Houston, one of my favorite memories was when my grandparents would take my brother and me to the San Jacinto Monument, where I learned the inspiring story of Sam Houston and the battle of San Jacinto, and how Texas won its independence from Mexico right there on Buffalo Bayou in 1836.
The same region became the original site for the city of Houston later that year and quickly developed into a bustling center for commerce between the Southwest and Mexico due to its location. Houston’s waterways and natural resources gave birth to industries that continue to drive our national economy today. Houston is the fifth largest metro area in the United States and the Port of Houston is the largest port in the nation in terms of foreign tonnage exported. We have one of the biggest energy and petrochemical complexes in the world, giving birth to our nickname as the "Energy Capital of the World."
Less than a mile away from the San Jacinto Monument is the historic Battleship Texas, which was a modern marvel when she was commissioned in 1914. The Battleship Texas was an innovative ship, setting the historical record of firsts among U.S. battleships: the first to mount anti-aircraft guns, the first to launch an aircraft, the first to receive commercial radar and the first battleship in the U.S. to have a memorial museum. The Battleship Texas is not only recognized as the flagship of the Texas Navy, but also has been deemed an official National Historic Landmark, one of only 46 in our state.
To honor the historic, cultural and national significance of the Buffalo Bayou area, I have worked to designate this 25-mile stretch of the Houston Ship Channel as a National Heritage Area. In 2002, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and I introduced the Buffalo Bayou National Heritage Study Act to commission a study on Buffalo Bayou. The resulting report, which was released in 2010, highlighted Buffalo Bayou’s rich history and economic impact. The study determined that Buffalo Bayou is eligible for National Heritage Area designation. If awarded, it would be the first National Heritage Area in Texas.
National Heritage Area status would not only recognize Buffalo Bayou as a nationally distinguished site for its historic, cultural and scenic characteristics, but it would also spur economic growth through increased national exposure and tourism. The distinction would provide the benefits of being listed as a federal National Heritage Area and would not restrict improvements or local commerce. The status has been supported by our local governments, organizations and industry groups.
The final step to have Buffalo Bayou recognized as an official National Heritage Area is passing a federal law that would add the site to the registry. Since the 111th Congress, I have introduced legislation to designate Buffalo Bayou as a National Heritage Area. Former senator Kay Bailey Hutchison was a strong supporter in the Senate and my colleagues in the House, including fellow Houston Representatives Pete Olson, Sheila Jackson Lee, Al Green and Steve Stockman, have provided bipartisan support as well.
I am hopeful that the Buffalo Bayou National Heritage Act is passed in Congress and signed into law so that Buffalo Bayou is officially recognized for its national significance. From 1836 to present day, our area has played a pivotal role in our nation’s history, economy and culture. Proclaiming Buffalo Bayou as a National Heritage Area would create an opportunity for generations across the U.S. to visit Houston and enjoy our great city.