The City of College Station was incorporated in 1938. The first city council made provisions for the creation of the city Parks Board in May, 1939. The Parks Board had authority to manage parks and public grounds for recreational and beautification purposes. Although there was no official city park, the board had the authority to receive grants of money and donations of labor and materials. Other than creating a Parks Board, the council gave little attention to the development of parks or a recreational program during the first decade of the city's existence. In 1947, the Council established the first city park with purchases of land from F.B. Clark and Hershel Burgess. The property, which surrounded and included the drained College Lake Park, became known as Dexter Park and was renamed Brison Park in 1980 in honor of Fred Brison. In 1953, a large group of citizens, utilizing their newly-attained charter privileges, suggested a possible referendum which, if passed, would establish a Recreation Board. The Board would operate with a budget funded by an increase in taxes.
Rather than submit the proposal to a vote, Mayor Langford, with the approval of the Council, appointed a five man Recreation Board. A recreation fund account was created which would receive appropriations each year. The Board's duties included administering the parks and developing a recreational program with major emphasis on youth activities. Within a short period of time, the board sponsored programs in swimming, tennis, golf, Little League baseball, and arranged city picnics. However, most programs were possible only because Texas A&M officials allowed the city to use the college's recreational facilities.
City officials also looked into the possibility of converting the partially damaged Lincoln School into a recreational center. In January, 1966, the Lincoln School caught fire and with 600-700 spectators hindering fire fighting efforts, firemen and volunteers could not prevent severe damage. Ten classrooms were lost, along with the library, principal's office, and all school records.
The school district agreed, in 1968, to lease Lincoln School to the City of College Station for recreational purposes. The city also obtained use of the property adjacent to the school for an all purpose sports field. The project was not immediately successful. Youngsters vandalized the facilities, and only after Mayor Anderson pleaded with the community for support, did destruction diminish.
By 1973, however, Lincoln Recreation Center offered a full time recreational program for all College Station residents with such activities as basketball, softball, ping-pong, arts and crafts, and judo. In 1977, the center became city property.
During Anderson's administration, officials realized that as the city expanded so must the recreation facilities. Parks and Recreation became a city department in 1971, although the parks superintendent and his assistant were employed on a part-time basis. The rest of the recreation staff worked without compensation. The new department also continued to rely heavily on university facilities. In order to insure future recreational areas, the council included mandatory park land dedications in the Subdivision Ordinance. According to the ordinance, developers were required to donate a portion of their land for park sites. Acreage was based on the number of units they constructed, or they could give the city the cash equivalent. This principle of mandatory park land dedication was later challenged through the court system and was successfully upheld by a Texas Supreme Court decision in 1985.
The Council made substantial progress during the early 1970's in establishing a long awaited municipal park which would have facilities for swimming. College Station officials learned, that beginning in the summer of 1973, its residents could no longer use the Texas A&M pool. It became imperative that the city develop the proposed park. In 1973, William Fitch donated sixteen additional acres to the selected park site, and the Federal Bureau of Outdoor Recreation approved a matching grant of $132,500 for development of a pool. The city hired J.W. Wood as architect-engineer for the project. Although the budget would not allow all requested amenities to be constructed, residents soon enjoyed the availability of an Olympic-size swimming pool in their community. College Station's first aquatic facility opened in Bee Creek Park on October 5,1974. It was later named Adamson Municipal Pool in honor of Art Adamson, long time swimming instructor at Texas A&M University.
Since the early 1950's, residents had expressed an interest in a city-wide recreational program and in acquiring municipal park sites. City leaders have made significant progress towards that goal. The expansion in city parks and recreation facilities during the late 70's and early 80's was phenomenal. Not only did the amount of park acreage double, but officials also sought to accommodate a variety of activities. The development of the Parks and Recreation Department reflected this growth. The city staff, Parks and Recreation Board and City Council worked together to implement these projects.
With additional funds allocated from the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation in 1974, the city added tennis courts, ballfields, and playgrounds at Bee Creek Park. In September, 1975, the Brazos County Bicentennial Committee inquired about the possibility of establishing an official county arboretum at Bee Creek Park in conjunction with the national celebration. The Council enthusiastically supported the idea and designated seventeen undeveloped acres for this purpose. Citizens from both the city and county planted and labeled various species of trees and mapped out a nature trail. The arboretum, later renamed for former Mayor Andy Anderson, was ready in time for the 1976 Fourth of July festivities.
Throughout the late 1970's, the City Council continued to add land and facilities to the park system. In 1975, the City Council amended the park land dedication ordinance to require developers to donate more acreage for recreation areas than was originally specified by the ordinance. The following year the city established the College Station Parks and Recreation Foundation, a trust fund created expressly for the purpose of purchasing Lincoln Center from the school district. Using federal money received in December, 1977, the Parks Department developed facilities at Thomas and Oaks Parks on the east side of the city. A second municipal pool opened in Thomas Park on June 21,1980.
One of the Parks and Recreation Department's most successful achievements was the development of College Station Central Park. In June of 1978, the city purchased forty-seven acres near the East Bypass and Krenek Tap Road to provide athletic fields for the community's organized softball and soccer teams. The site also contained a large wooded expanse and a small pond. The natural setting convinced park officials to expand the facility to a multipurpose recreational area. Tennis courts, picnic areas, playground facilities, nature trails, and a group pavilion were included in the plans. College Station residents celebrated the completion of their largest municipal park in August of 1982. The Parks and Recreation Department not only decided to use Central Park as a model for the future, but also chose to establish their office building and maintenance facility amid the scenic setting.
In 1984, the Parks and Recreation Department created "Christmas In The Park". Substantial donations from local businessman Jack Lester enabled the city to purchase lights and other decorations for the park. Every year volunteers and city employees install lights throughout Central Park, creating a brilliant show for all to see. 600 cars per hour view the decorations at peak times and this attraction will continue to be enjoyed by many for years to come.
In response to the community's needs, the city purchased and developed Southwood Athletic Park. By the end of 1984, one and a half years after construction first started, Southwood became College Station's second largest developed park, consisting of forty-four acres. The park has many facilities including a pool, baseball and soccer fields, a tennis center and basketball courts. There is also a maintenance facility and a large group pavilion located in the park. Funding for this project was made available through the 1981 bond issue along with a matching grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
In 1985, the city obtained its first historical park. Richard Carter Park is the site of the Richard Carter Homestead. The park is on the corner of Brazoswood Drive and the East Bypass. Carter was College Station's earliest settler, arriving from Alabama in 1831. He received a land grant from the Mexican government of 4,428 acres. Carter was appointed to the first Board of Commissioners after Brazos County was created in 1841 and helped survey the site of Boonville, the first county seat. He was also one of the area's wealthiest land owners, raising cattle, corn, and cotton during the years before the Civil War. In honor of Richard Carter, Carter Park has a self guided interpretive center with displays about the history of this early settler and a stylized sculpture depicting Carter staking the homestead.
In March 1987, the City Council studied the expenditure of Parkland Dedication Funds in the park zone which contains a section of Wolf Pen Creek. This area is approximately a one and a half mile section of the creek between the Highway 6 Bypass and Texas Avenue. During discussion of expenditures and improvements, it was suggested the opportunities of the flood plain should be examined for recreational use. Comparison was made to a similar project in Navasota where considerable public support and assistance was given to the project by adjacent property owners and the general citizenry.
From this and other discussions, evolved the City Council's request of staff to develop a conceptual plan. Through collaboration between the Parks, Engineering and Planning Departments, a conceptual approach for development of Wolf Pen Creek was prepared and submitted to the Council. The Council requested that work be continued. The consulting firm of J.T. Dunkin and Associates was hired to work on the creation of a Master Plan for the Wolf Pen Creek Corridor. Within two years, the City Council had placed the development of Wolf Pen Creek Corridor as its first priority for 1989-90. The first phase of this development was begun with the construction funded by various sources, including a grant from the Astin Trust and a grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. In November of 1991, construction of the amphitheater and surrounding park land, involved in Phase I, was started. Construction was completed in June of 1993. The park contains such amenities as an amphitheater with a 2,000 square foot stage, a lake, a playground, rest rooms, and a picnic pavilion. This 2 million dollar project will set the pace for future phases to come, as well as provide a staging area for existing and future recreation programs and special events.
Other long range projects include the implementation of the Lincoln Center/Wayne Smith Park Master Plan and the development of Lick Creek Park. The Lincoln Recreation Center/Wayne Smith Park Master Plan includes the acquisition of additional property to create a greenbelt corridor that will provide additional recreational facilities. Lick Creek Park will be a 515 acre natural park set aside for hiking, camping, nature study, and as permanent habitat for endangered species of our area. A special Committee completed a Master Plan for Lick creek Park. In February of 1998 the College Station City Council passed the Lick Creek Park Master Plan which established an improved trail system, new entrance drive, parking lot, visitor center and outdoor classroom facilities.
The W.A. Tarrow Parkwhich includes Lincoln Center, Wayne Smith Youth Baseball Fields and the old Wayne Smith Park, was dedicated in April of 1999.
In March of 1995 voters approved $3,130,000 for park projects in a bond election. Proposition #7 included $1,630,000 for three distinct projects. The first item was a continuation of the Lincoln Center/Wayne Smith Corridor through the construction of three youth baseball fields, a concession building and parking to be completed in 1998. The second called for the renovation of the Central Park Softball Concession Building and improvements to the youth softball fields at Bee Creek Park to be completed in 1998. The third component of this proposition allowed for the development of Pebble Creek Park located adjacent to a new elementary school in the Pebble Creek area. This park and school were opened in the fall of 1996.
Proposition #8 included $1,500,000 for the acquisition of approximately 150 acres for a major community park. This park would serve present and future needs for soccer, softball, and many other outdoor recreational activities. Funds remaining from the initial purchase could be used for development, but future bond funds will be needed to complete development of this area.
In November of 1998, voters approved $4,769,000 for park projects through a bond election. New parks to be developed through these bond funds include Edelweiss, Billie Madeley, and University Park. A new shop was built in 2000 for the West District ($501,000). Several neighborhood parks will have improvements added. These parks include Brison, Brothers Pond, Central Park, Gabbard, Lemontree, Merry Oaks, Raintree, and Thomas. Lick Creek Park, the Regional nature park will be developed with improved trails, rest rooms, parking and a visitor's center ($458,000). All three pools will have improvements added. The Veteran's Athletic Park Phase I will be developed with softball fields, soccer fields, rest rooms, parking, lighting, roads, and landscaping ($2,120,000 budgeted). A 12 acre portion of this park has been designated as Veterans Memorial which will include a Veterans Memorial sculpture, plaza, landscaping and walkways. The $500,000 development cost of this Memorial Park is funded by Brazos County and the Cities of College Station and Bryan along with the generous donations of private citizens. A dedication ceremony is scheduled for Nov. 11, 2002 .
A Wolf Pen Creek Sculpture Dedication was held on Dec. 17, 2001. This effort was coordinated by the Arts Council of Brazos Valley as a part of the public Arts campaign. It is located at the Holleman drive entrance to the amphitheater.
Brazos Valley Veterans Memorial was dedicated on Nov. 11 2002. Phase I of the Veterans Park and Athletic Complex was dedicated in May of 2003.