February 10, 2007
West 11th Street Park still not out of the woods

Via Houstonist, here's another update on the West 11th Street Park.

On Jan. 8, Houston City Council opted to buy the 20.2 acres for $9.2 million. Of that purchase price, $4 million will come from city funds, $1.7 million from private donations raised by the nonprofit Houston Parks Board and other groups, and $3.5 million from a loan the Parks Board secured from Amegy Bank to make up for a fundraising shortfall.

If the 12-month, $3.5 million loan cannot be paid off, 5 acres of the park -- which includes a baseball field used by the Timbergrove Sports Association -- would be lost.

"We're very, very concerned about that," said Nancy Greig, point person for Save This Park!, an organization formed to help save the West 11th Street Park. "We're excited that this is the next step, but we're determined that we're going to get all 20.2 acres.

"One thing we are concerned about is part of the land put up for collateral is the baseball diamond. It's an important practice area for (the Timbergrove Little League)."

Russell Baumbach, chairman of the Timbergrove Sports Association that runs the Little League, said loss of the field could be a devastating blow.

"As development continues to occur in and around Timbergrove, baseball fields that we have been able to use for practices are continuing to be reduced. This has an impact in the baseball product that we are able to offer our local youth," Baumbach said. "The West 11th Street Park has always been able to offer Timbergrove Sports Association a baseball practice field venue. If this was lost, it would jeopardize our ability to provide local practice fields to support the needs of our league."

Man, I hadn't realized that about the Timbergrove Little League. That's the league for which I was a coach for two years. We used different practice fields when I coached, off of 15th Street and outside the Loop on TC Jester, but as every team is assigned a practice field, losing this one would hurt.

The 12 months on the loan have not begun yet.

The expected property closing date was Wednesday, but everyone raising money for the park would like to pay it off as quickly as possible.

"The Houston Parks Board is fortunate to be working with Mayor (Bill) White, council member Toni Lawrence and the community volunteers who are working so passionately to save every acre of the West 11th Street Park," Houston Parks Board director Roksan Okan-Vick said.

Lawrence plans to hold a fundraiser in late February or early March to help with the effort, said her chief of staff, Mike Howard.

"Preserving the 20-plus-acre park is extremely important not only to the council member and the adjacent community, but the entire city," Howard said.

The loan was, "a last ditch effort to make sure they don't lose the entire park," he added.

"We're very optimistic that we can raise the money to keep the entire park."

I hope you're right. Kudos to Council Member Lawrence for taking such an active role in this. Here's the donation form if you want to help.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 10, 2007 to Elsewhere in Houston