Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Parks Build Community - Texas Style

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Parks Build Community - Texas Style

Article excerpt

Of all the rewards of a successful Congress, perhaps there was none more meaningful than the completion of the Parks Build Community project at Shady Lane Park in Houston this year. This once-dilapidated park in an underserved community of north Houston had very minimal facilities, but it was heavily used by the community. Over the past year and a half, NRPA, in partnership with the Houston Parks and Recreation Department (HPARD) and a number of other partners, completed a makeover of this park unlike any other I have ever seen.

The first time I visited Shady Lane in early 2012,1 was struck by the vitality of the community surrounding the park. People just loved this park, and they went to great effort to visit it, many on a daily basis, most of them on foot along well-worn dirt footpaths that all the local residents refer to as "goat paths." Mothers with baby carriages, families with kids, seniors with friends - all used the park's fields, trails and small community center from dawn till dark.

So, when Joe Turner, director of HPARD, recommended this site as his top choice for the Parks Build Community project for 2013, we knew that the potential for this project to transform the life of this community was unlimited. We saw this as a project that perfectly captured the intent of NRPA's three pillars - conservation, health and wellness, and social equity.

After more than 12 months of community engagement, participatory design and sustained effort by the HPARD staff, contractors, donors and partnering organizations, the vision for this park has come true. Shady Lane is now a vibrant urban park with a stunning nature-themed playground complete with a splashpad for kids, a bayou boat much like the ones that once plied the waterways near Houston, a larger-than-life-size alligator, a treehouse climber, an overlook onto a large-scale environmental wetland restoration project and more. The interpretive displays and signs, the nature-themed play equipment, the adjacent green infrastructure project for stormwater management and the trail system all exemplify the ways that an urban park can be a catalyst for learning about conservation, for getting healthy and staying fit, and for building social equity. …

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