Public parks were a rarity at the turn of the last century. So when the Houston Electric Company announced in 1903 that they would build a grand new park there was considerable interest from the citizens of Houston. Highland Park, the park's original name, was to be built on 30 acres of the Beauchamp Springs tract between Houston Ave. and Little White Oak Bayou at 212 Parkview. The Houston Electric Company said it would spare no expense in making this the finest park in the South and invested $30,000 in its construction.
Early on a restaurant and a dance pavilion were constructed to accommodate up to 1,000 people. A dam across Little White Oak Bayou was built which created a large artificial lake to accommodate small motor boats. A streetcar line was also installed that deposited park goers right at the entrance of the park.
This was only the second park in the entire city and was just a short cable car ride from our bustling downtown. It attracted thousands on the weekends because of its host of activities including music concerts, concessions, rides, and boating, not to mention its beauty. Some 5,000 people were reported to have attended its grand opening on July 4, 1903!
The park was very successful and continued to thrive from 1903 to the end of the decade. It was purchased by the city in 1911 and was renamed Woodland Park in 1914. In 1915, Houston's first zoological collection started at Woodland Park with a pair of ostriches paid for by penny donations from Houston school children. Within one year, Woodland Park had collected up to 60 specimens and park attendance had increased to as many as 500 persons on Sundays. In 1916, the Department of Public Parks was created and the construction of a shelter building and a swimming pool were completed under the first parks bond issue.
The Friends of Woodland Park, Inc. (FWP) is dedicated to preserving the park's natural habitat along with its unique historical significance to the City of Houston, and to providing for the enjoyment and education of all who visit.
Labor is free, but supplies and tools are not. We offer profound thanks to the following businesses and individuals for their continued financial and/or material support of our efforts.
North Main Tool Rental
The Ballard Family
Rob and Julia Wellner
2016: A Year of Improvements for Woodland Park
FWP Annual Meeting Report
2016 will be a year of significant improvements to Woodland Park. In addition to the scheduled improvements to the community building and the anticipated addition of a scale model trolley car replica we expect significant progress to be made on the revised connectivity trail system including the reworking of the Houston Ave. /White Oak Dr. traffic intersection, the creation of a southern park entrance, and an update to the entrance of the Park. Most of these improvements will be carried out by the Houston Parks and Recreation Department (HPARD), TIRZ-5, and the Houston Parks Board (HPB).
Specific projects and events planned by the FWP
April: Bridgestone/FWP Earth Day Bayou Clean Up - We are planning another major tire removal effort, and trash elimination project, which will be underwritten by our sponsor, Bridgestone Americas. We look forward to help from our community and corporate volunteers to pull tires, shopping carts, and heavy trash from the Little White Oak Bayou as well as remove trash from the wooded area of the park. Equipment rental, debris haul-off, plus lunch and refreshments are expected to cost between $5,000 and $7,000.
June: Happy Trails and Hot Dogs - We will once again be celebrating National Trails Day by hosting a picnic and having children’s activities and trail adventures. Total costs are expects to run between $1,300 and $1,500.
Movie Nights - We plan to reintroduce Movie Night so neighbors and families will have a reason to visit the park in the evening. This event has always been well received and well attended in the past. Equipment and movie rental plus refreshments, supplies, and permits typically cost $600-800 per event.
Ongoing Maintenance of our Riparian Restoration Area - Various corporate and civic groups have contacted us, and are scheduled to assist with the ongoing maintenance of the new riparian restoration area, which was planted in November 2015. Additionally they will help keep the surrounding wooded area clear of trash. Costs are not expected to be significant.
Additional Restoration Areas - Based on the success of our initial effort, and with the support and approval of HPARD we are considering adding more native landscapes. Anticipated cost per ‘prairie patch’ is $2,000.
Interpretive Signage - With the assistance and cooperation of HPARD and HPB we expect to install signage throughout the wooded portion of the park for educational purposes and to point out specific landmarks and points of interest. Costs could run between $2,000 and $5,000.
Trolley Car Installation - Subject to obtaining final approval, we hope to install a scale model replica of the trolley that made the park a reality in 1903. Costs are not expected to exceed $7,000.
“FIREFLY FIELD” - We fully expect 2016 to be the year of the creation and installation of a unique park enhancement sculpture designed and built by local artist Dylan Conner. This grouping of 6 LED powered and computer controlled stainless steel “lightning bugs” will hover over the newly designed grand entrance to the park at Houston Ave. and Parkview St. Although the utilities and overall infrastructure for the installation will be funded through the generosity of HPARD and TIRZ-5, the project itself must be funded through the efforts of the FWP. Various means will be employed for this lofty capital campaign including corporate and institutional sponsor solicitations and fund raising events. $95,000 or more will be needed to cover the costs of fabrication, installation, and fund raising. This will be our most ambitious project to date but will serve as a permanent Woodland Park ambassador welcoming visitors to the park.