City leaders plan to renovate Emancipation Park

June 19, 2012 3:30:49 PM PDT
Juneteenth is a day many hold dear to their hearts. It's the day slaves in Galveston learned they had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. And what better occasion to announce a major multi-million dollar renovation to an historic local park.

Neighbors in the Third Ward will tell you the 10-acre Emancipation Park became the first public park in Texas, after a group of freed slaves collected $800 to buy it. Now the city is hoping to raise $33 million to give this old park some new life.

As dancers moved to the beat of African drums inside Emancipation Park's old community Center, outside park visitors say there are so many new things to celebrate this Juneteenth.

Emancipation Park board member R. Christian Tucker said, "Well, Emancipation Park is the hub of this community. It has always been, and it always will be."

Neighbors who grew up in this park are finding out the 140-year-old public hub is getting what the city calls a much-needed and major makeover. The parks department used the Juneteenth holiday to announce a $33 million renovation project.

"You know, this is the history of our city," said Joe Turner, Director of the Houston Parks and Recreation Department. "This park was here in 1872. It's a piece of history of Houston that needs to be taken care of."

The city parks director says among the multi-million dollar renovations, the city will update the gym and community center here. Neighbors tell me they're looking forward to so much more.

Emancipation Park board member Florence Jackson explained, "They are going to put a stage in the back. They are going to do the ball field, and they are going to do the pool."

Park visitors will also enjoy outdoor fountains and public art features.

"Oh, it's colossally important to this community," Tucker said.

So far city leaders say community partners have stepped up with a large portion of the money. Organizers say they're about $10 million short of the $33 million goal right now.

"What we need now is to close the door up so we can finish this project," Turner said.

The city is calling on the community to help raise the final portion for the renovations.


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