Bedecked in a snowman skirt, candy-cane striped tights and a festive Christmas ribbon, young Anja Colvard climbed into the lap of her mother, Michele Colvard, for a holiday picture with someone dressed as the Grinch.
But the fast-moving Grinch was too busy greeting dozens of Houston kids and their families, who gathered at the newly revitalized, 29-acre James Driver Park in the East Aldine part of Harris County Precinct 2.
Instead, she got her photo taken with Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia, who presided over the grand opening of the park on Saturday, Dec. 11. Garcia, unlike the Grinch, was making an upbeat contribution to the season.
The $7.6 million redesign and rebuilding of the park ensures that it will accommodate visitors of all physical and cognitive abilities. With its wide sidewalks, sloping “slides” and wheelchair basketball court, the park was filled with celebrants who listened to brass-band music, feasted on cocoa and pastries or popcorn, and waited for a Christmas tree lighting featuring Santa Claus.
The Houston Brass Band played Christmas music. Members of the Texas Institute of Research and Rehabilitation Memorial Hermann’s “Hotwheels” basketball team were on hand for the opening.
There were arts and crafts and games and candy and a collection of ugly Christmas sweaters just right for the chilly weather.
Garcia fought back tears as he congratulated the community for its inspiration and dedication to a park that will serve everyone, including individuals of all ages who use wheelchairs and “bionic” devices to work and play.
“The idea you are seeing here is something that I call ‘Revive to Thrive,’ ” Garcia said. “That is something that I believe means that areas like Aldine don’t have to have a developer buy out the property and build new structures, just to get the things (residents) have always expected, like sidewalks and adequate drainage.”
“Revive to Thrive is revitalizing communities, long-standing communities, without having to go through gentrification,” Garcia said. “The passion that I have in my heart is to make sure that government is responsive to communities who say, ‘Why should I participate in government that ignores me and forgets me?’ Today is evidence you are no longer forgotten.”
James Driver Park, tucked neatly into an East Aldine residential neighborhood at 10918 Bentlett St., has an expansive green lawn, with an amphitheater, broad sidewalks, the wheelchair basketball court and a community center.
There is plenty of parking space, with extra room for handicapped vehicles.
There is also a playground featuring specially designed, wheelchair-friendly equipment, where kids of all ages can spin, swing, slide and splash; a “misting area” and shade to provide relief from Houston’s heat, and an outdoor gaming and fitness area fearing bocce ball, shuffleboard, chess tables, bean bag toss and fitness equipment.
The adjacent community center has been remodeled. It is open in back to provide a covered dining space overlooking the lush, green lawn. And there’s a Metro bus stop to improve public access to the new attractions.
— By Anne Marie Kilday