SPARKing Change in Houston’s Park Deserts

Houston’s newest greenspace was dedicated with fanfare and camaraderie on Tuesday, May 28. A parade led by the Lawson Academy Marching Band welcomed more than 50 students, political leaders, community members and Kinder Foundation leadership to the opening celebration of the SPARK Park at Lawson Academy, a neighborhood park on the school’s Third Ward campus.

The SPARK Park at Lawson Academy boasts a concrete trail, a 24 Bank Shot Recreational System, six hand-painted benches by a local environmental artist, 20 new trees provided by Trees for Houston, and a 10-foot mixed media rocket that emphasizes STEM elements.

Like all SPARK Parks, design of the Lawson Academy SPARK Park was a collaborative effort.Neighbors and community members had to demonstrate a willingness to help plan and fund the park. To create their own park, the Lawson Academy students raised $10,000, while the Kinder Foundation, Houston Endowment and Powell Foundation contributed $160,000 of its $5.5 million commitment to SPARK projects across Greater Houston. A committee of parents, students, and teachers provided input on desired features, resulting in a unique park reflecting the needs, interests and creative efforts of the neighborhood.

A community asset, the new greenspace enhances park equity in the Third Ward – historically a “park desert” – and helps fulfill the city’s goal to eventually have a park within a half-mile of all Houston residents.

The Kinder Foundation is dedicated to enhancing green space, education and quality of life for all Houstonians. Supporting the creation of SPARK Parks in underserved parts of Houston to enhance the livability of these areas is in lockstep with this mission. Further, this investment underscores the Foundation’s previous support of the Lawson Academy, whose campus we helped build in 2016 with a $1 million matching catalyst gift, and our overall community development and preservation efforts in the Third Ward.