Plans are in the works to give one of Houston’s most historical parks a $33 million makeover. Located on Dowling Street in the Third Ward, Emancipation Park was purchased by freed slaves back in 1872. It was later donated to the city. The park has deteriorated over the years, but the city hopes to return this piece of Houston history to its former glory.
Both children and adults sat in the Emancipation Park gym and listened to politicians and community leaders talk about Juneteenth and the big plans they have for the park.
Juneteenth refers to the time when slaves learned they were free.
In Houston, it was a group of free slaves that bought this park for $800. One hundred and forty years later, the renovation will take millions.
This is Mayor Annise Parker:
“We intend for this park, because of its history, because of its significance to be a park — when all is said and done and the renovations are complete — that visitors to Houston will want to see.”
It’ll take some $33 million, but when it’s all done, the park is expected to be one of the nicest in the city. Residents will be treated to theater performances, health education sessions, job training, athletics and community events.
State Senator Rodney Ellis says Emancipation Park and its history should be a source of pride for the community.
“Every time you come in this park if you see a piece of paper on the ground, if you see somebody doing something wrong, you think about those recently freed slaves coming up with $800, which is more like $80 million today. To have this park dedicated to the people of Houston, you ought to be proud of this park.”
Emancipation’s gym is 70 years old and looks every bit of it. The pool is old and needs upgrading as well.
Construction on the new facilities won’t start for at least another year and a half. But when it’s finished, Mayor Parker believes the new Emancipation Park could be known for more than its history.
“There is no reason that Emancipation Park can’t be as much of a destination as a Discovery Green, or a Market Square Park.”
Park manager Yolanda Morrow says that’s good news to the kids who play there every day. She says they’ve been hearing a lot of talk, but so far no action.
“They’ve been talking about, ‘when are we going to get a new gym, when are we going to get this?’Everybody else is getting this and that.’ And every year I tell them, ‘it’s coming, it’s coming,’ and now it’s here.”
It’s not officially here, the city still needs to raise another $7 million. The parks department says anyone who donates a large chunk of that can even put their name on one of the buildings.