In this companion piece to a history of Donovan Park as we know it today by past HHA President Anne Culotta, current President Bill Baldwin provides an update on improvements to the park in the current issue of The Heights Pages magazine.
This editorial originally appeared in the Summer issue of The Heights Pages:
By now the story of Donovan Park is Houston Heights lore. While it has been a mainstay of the neighborhood for over two decades, the park, which is owned, maintained, and managed by the Houston Heights Association, has really become the focal point of our community with the arrival of Heights Mercantile across the street and with its location at the intersection of the the widely enjoyed Heights Hike & Bike Trail and Heights Boulevard, which in its own right is home to a ever-changing public art and a dedicated bike lane. What that all adds up to is a huge increase in the patronage of Donovan Park from Houston Heights residents and visitors alike. We’ve even looked at the numbers recently. On a beautiful spring weekend, the park sees about 1200-1500 visitors a day. This is nearly ten times the number we would see even just a few years ago.
This increase is something we should be immensely proud of! We as residents often say that there is no other place we’d rather live, work, and play, but to have so many gleeful children playing in the imaginative world of Donovan Park is truly one of the best investments we can make in the generations to come. We want to see these little ones continue to explore the park, we want them to be safe, and we want to see even more visitors.
A heavily utilized 22 year-old wooden playground is bound to need some updates and repairs along the way, and the Heights has Jim Bennett to thank for expertly managing the upkeep. He’s been aided by watchful neighbors, doting parents and caregivers, the Constable Patrol, HHA leadership and volunteers who monitor the park for safety and improvements. As with the community build of the park starting in October 1996, the maintenance of Donovan Park, so that it can continue to bring so much joy and pride to the neighborhood, is a community effort.
As we continue to make vital improvements based on a recent assessment done by a nationally renowned playground consultant, it has become clear that we will need to call upon the community again. The cost to essentially re-do the playground as it appears today and bring it up to standards commensurate with its use is upwards of $150,000. This also raises the possibility of potentially redesigning the playground through a neighborhood-driven design committee (like the effort led by HHA Pioneer Randy Pace before) or even a design competition. While the possibilities are endless, the means are precious. Therefore, starting in 2019, we anticipate the need for a capital campaign to raise funds for a massive re-do of the playground. Our goal is to re-envision the park for the 21st century while accommodating the thousands of weekly park goers safely and comfortably.
In the meantime, we will continue to make all necessary improvements and hope we can count on you to keep an eye out on anything you think we should address. You can also make a donation directly toward the Donovan Park playground by visiting houstonheightsstore.org.