February 24, 2008
The West 11th Street Park grand re-opening ceremony

I was able to attend the ceremony that marked the official transition of the West 11th Street Park to city-owned park space. It was a nice and pleasantly brief affair that was well-attended by folks in the neighborhood who had worked so hard to save it. There were a lot of moving parts to this effort, starting with the grassroots organization, and it required a fair bit of coordination among different governmental entities - the Mayor's office, the HISD board of trustees, and ultimately the state Parks and Wildlife bureau - and there were a lot of ways in which it could have failed. But it didn't, and we're all the richer for it. I haven't seen any actual news coverage of this, so I'm going to print the press release I got for this here:

At last, the full 20.2 acres of the West 11th Street Park property is now a permanent part of the Houston Park system. After several years of advocacy, fundraising, and dedication to protecting this beautiful urban forest, the Houston Parks Board received the final funds necessary to save the last 5 acres of the property.

"The city moved quickly to preserve important green space, working with the community and state and local leaders," said Mayor White. "It's an effort we're very proud of."

"I am honored to have played a role in the preservation of the West 11th Street Park," said Senator Whitmire. "Working together, we have protected this precious park land for generations to come."

The story behind the purchase of West 11th Street Park is unique, starting with discussions that began more than a decade ago with the Houston Independent School District. The history also includes a bold decision by the Houston Parks Board to take out a one-year bridge loan in order to bide time to raise the final $3.62 million to purchase the park, an unexpected commitment of funds from the Texas Legislature to ensure the park's full acquisition by the City, and subsequently, the availability of recently donated funds for new signage, trail repairs and modest park improvements.

"Having a one-year bridge loan in hopes of raising over $3 million is unheard of in the world of fundraising," stated Roksan Okan-Vick, Executive Director of the Houston Parks Board. "I am thankful that our board of directors was willing, and am thankful that it all worked out." West 11th Street Park will be managed for the City by the Houston Parks and Recreation Department.

"We are excited that the entire 20.2 acres of land will be coming into the City's system of parks," said Joe Turner, Director of Houston Parks and Recreation Department. "There have been many people working behind the scenes to make this happen. I'm happy to see that their hard work and dedication will result in such a beautiful wilderness park right in the middle of Houston."

As am I. Congratulations to everyone who made this happen.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 24, 2008 to Elsewhere in Houston