The initial plan called for construction of a research facility as part of the Bayou Lab Initiative, but it faced numerous challenges that included design delays due to COVID-19. Determined to make the most of Shell’s support in a timely manner, ABNC decided to create an outdoor plaza that serves as the starting point for most ABNC activities – from kayak and pontoon boat tours to exploring the center’s five miles of trails.

“We are pleased and grateful that Shell agreed to repurpose their funding for a different aspect of the Bayou Lab experience,” says ABNC Executive Director Tim Pylate. “We think of the center as an outdoor, living classroom. The Shell Armand Bayou trailhead will help our visitors have a better experience as they enjoy and learn about nature.”

ABNC regularly hosts groups from local colleges and universities as well as public and private schools. Total attendance is about 50,000 people per year, and Pylate says the goal is to make the center a must-see destination for the Houston area.

Plaza highlights

The new facility features a large trail circle surrounded by a sidewalk embedded with animal footprints – deer, bobcat and raccoon on one side and owl, skunk and coyote on the other – with signage for visitors to learn which tracks they may discover out on the trails. A large cypress tree marks the center of the circle.

“The area also contains nine plants that are native to this area that residents can plant at home,” Pylate says. “These plants are loved by pollinators such as butterflies and hummingbirds – which are on the decline – as well as other species that consume flowers and their nectar.”

About the ABNC

ABNC is a non-profit established in 1974 with the mission of preservation and environmental education. It is one of the largest urban wilderness preserve in the US, with 2,500 acres of natural wetlands, forest, prairie and marsh habitats.

It helps preserve three rapidly disappearing ecosystems: the bayou itself and surrounding grasses, the forest that runs along the edges of the bayou; and 900 acres of Texas tall grass prairie. These ecosystems are vital for flood mitigation, water filtering and providing a home for more than 370 species – including bald eagles, alligators and otters that were once endangered and are now thriving. To learn more, visit

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