Legacy Park award on Marble Falls council agenda tonight

GLYNIS CRAWFORD SMITH/THE HIGHLANDER

Johnson Park, now a Lone Star Legacy Park, has been central to Marble Falls since the 1800s. Today the park, with paths, boat launches, playground equipment and ducks and wildlife to enjoy, still is place for young and old to enjoy among oaks likely older than the 130-year-old park itself.

BY GLYNIS CRAWFORD SMITH

THE HIGHLANDER

The Marble Falls City Council at their meeting tonight, Tuesday, April 5, will hear an update on the centerpiece and oldest member of their cadre of parks—Johnson Park—and its designation this year as a Lone Star Legacy Park by the Texas Recreation and Parks Society (TRAPS).

Located in the heart of the city, at 230 South Avenue J, the pecan-shaded expanse of the park occupies 18.7 acres of land at the juncture of Backbone Creek and Whitman Branch, as they make their way through the Colorado River bottom to Lake Marble Falls.

The park has been existence since the city's inception in 1887 and it is named for its founder, General Adam Rankin Johnson. The plat of the original township shows Johnson Park designated as a community park.

Research by the Marble Falls Parks & Recreation Department finds reports of community functions and events there as early as 1888, when the park was as the first meeting place for First Baptist Church. The park was even home to many during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Families looking for work or passing through on their way west lived in tents there.

In a 130 year history, Johnson Park has been the site of almost every major community event and many more social gatherings, family reunions, weddings, picnics, baptisms, beauty pageants, fundraisers, political rallies, summer camps and scouting events. Festivals, from Howdy-Roo and other cook-offs to the Show & Shine speed boat exhibits of LakeFest, city-wide garage sales and musical events at the amphitheater bandstand, Mayfest and Children's Day for families, all center in the park year-round.

Johnson Park was the scene of childhood adventures along Backbone Creek and among old climbing oaks long before the city began the addition of modern playground equipment, picnic pavilions, boat launches, restrooms and Johnson Ball Field.

On any day, downtown employees, shoppers and visitors may be found using the park as a quiet lunch retreat. Memorial benches, markers and monuments, including the Rotary Fallen Soldier Memorial, provide places for contemplation and reflection. A water fountain wall creates a feeling of solitude near the creek bridge.

Johnson Park was one of six parks across the state honored in announcement of Lone Star Legacy Park designations March 2 at the annual TRAPS institute in Galveston. It was joined by Grover Nelson Park, Abilene; Reverchon Park, Dallas; Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge, Fort Worth; Kempner Park, Galveston, and Hermann Park, Houston, each a park more than 50 years old that has stood the test of time to hold prominence in its community. Each has distinctive design or unique natural features, historic significance or an association with important events.

Johnson park has all those things,” said Parks & Recreation Director Robert W. Moss. “It is relevant that the park has been at the heart of our community functions and gatherings from the beginning and that it still is the location of many of our major events.”

We are honored that Johnson Park has been designated as a Lone Star Legacy Park,” said Mayor John Packer. “A designation as a Lone Star Legacy is one of the highest honors that can be bestowed on a park. Thank you to our Parks and Recreation Department employees who do such a great job maintaining our parks.”

There are only a few parks in Texas that have the same impact on a community and the around area that Johnson park does,” noted Park Commissioner Steve Manley. “The Lone Stare Legacy designation is a much deserved honor for Marble Falls.”

Although Johnson Park was the city's first park, it now is part of a 130-acre system of trails, greenbelts, parks and facilities in Marble Falls. They include the adjacent Lakeside Park and Pavilion, where the city pool and tennis courts are located, and Falls Creek Park and Skate Park, where a new bronze statue of Floyd Tillman was installed last year and where visitors will find the Highland Lakes Farmers Market and a boating concession. Westside Park on Second Street has a dog park, disc golf course, playing courts and the Westside Park Community Hall. The parks system includes also the small Villa Vista Park and parks with playing fields, such as The Greens and Rotary Fields for soccer, and baseball diamonds at Childers Park, 1310 Broadway Street, and VFW Park, 1009 Veterans Avenue.

TRAPS is a non-profit 501(c)3 professional and educational organization founded 75 years ago with a membership of over 2,000 professionals. TRAPS is committed to advancing the field of parks, recreation and leisure services in Texas, while advocating for enhanced recreation opportunities and the increase of public green space for Texans. www.traps.org. A Lone Star Legacy Park plaque will be installed at the park in ceremonies to be announced later this spring.

 

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