World-famous nature preserve adds a dramatic visitor amenity
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DETAILS

LocationHouston, Texas, United States
ClientHouston Audubon Society
Size700 linear feet (elevated boardwalk)

High Island, Texas, a salt dome mound amidst the Gulf Coast flats, has been an active site for oil extraction over the past century. Today, it is primarily known as an international birding destination, with an outstanding variety of migratory birds that visit and nest in the nature sanctuaries managed by the Houston Audubon Society. SWA worked with HAS to develop a facilities master plan as well as a “destination experience” for the birdwatching community. The plan’s standout feature is a 700-foot-long Canopy Walk that meanders through the existing tree canopy, leading visitors to man-made island overlooks where egret, spoonbill, and cormorant populations establish their nesting homes every year. The boardwalk was shaped to work through and around the existing heritage oaks and other large trees, while mimicking tree structures in order to better blend in with the natural setting.  At the entry of the boardwalk is an existing pumphouse that will be converted into an open-air pavilion to welcome guests and host events. With resilient structural features, a sensitive design that minimizes disturbance of existing habitat, and selected materials that can withstand the forces of the harsh coastal environment, High Island’s popularity has helped the Houston Audubon Society realize its mission to create healthier environment by leading and nurturing a community that values and supports birds.

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