The Eastside’s 32-acre Lincoln Park, located at 2915 E. Commerce St., has been a gathering place for the black community, neighbors, and families, for more than nine decades, but many agree it has potential to offer more.
“This is the first park that allowed Negroes in San Antonio in 1939,” said Jefferson Heights Neighborhood Association President Charles E. English. “This was all before Comanche Park allowed Negroes … in 1950s. In this park, there’s actually pictures where blacks were on blankets, (near) the sand and the swings.”
In an effort to enhance the quality of life for the San Antonio community and continue the momentum of the Eastside’s revitalization, H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt has pledged a personal donation of $1 million to the redevelopment of the park, grocery chain officials announced at the park Wednesday.
The City of San Antonio has recommended another $1 million for improvements to Lincoln Park as part of the proposed 2017 bond program, Mayor Ivy Taylor said.
“Should voters approve (the bond) in May 2017,” Taylor said, “the improvements to Lincoln Park should be completed by the the summer of 2018, as San Antonio celebrates its 300th anniversary.”
The City’s Tricentennial Commission has already begun to plan events throughout 2018 to commemorate San Antonio’s history.
“There are great projects underway that will change the dynamics of the Eastside …” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said. “This is another milestone with respect to celebrating our history.”
“This is unprecedented for the Eastside,” Councilman Alan Warrick (D2) said. “Martin Luther King Park, Lockwood and Dignowity Parks, and Lincoln Park will receive over $8 million dollars in investment, including this donation, so that’s really a huge opportunity. … I look forward to the work that is to come in order to make this park one of the best in San Antonio.”
Potential park improvements may include lighting upgrades, walking trails, a splash pad, fitness stations, and more connectivity and accessibility to surrounding neighborhoods.
“I have a master plan in my head, H-E-B has already talked to me about an amphitheater and all that,” English said, adding the he envisions more walkways, Wi-Fi, and plenty of space for “senior citizens (to) come out on their wheelchairs and enjoy (the park).”
It’s a bigger vision, now that funding is coming in, said English, who serves on the 2017 Parks and Recreation Bond Committee.
Artwork by Booker T. Washington Elementary School students was on display at the event, where they depicted their “dream park” in colorful designs.
“The students got to develop their dream park,” H-E-B Food and Drug Division President Suzanne Wade said. “We hope that the San Antonio community will have the opportunity to develop the future vision for Lincoln Park as a legacy for generations to come, well beyond the Tricentennial.”
Tricentennial Legacy Projects, such as the one at Lincoln Park, are vital to the continued growth of San Antonio as they play key roles in competitive cities around the world, connecting residents and visitors with nature and promoting outdoor activities, Taylor said. Parks also tell the story of San Antonio’s founding as well as its growth.
“More hike and bike trials are also critical parts of the SA Tomorrow vision,” Taylor said, “because those are the kind of amenities that people expect now in their community. And Lincoln Park is no exception.”
Taylor’s husband Rodney grew up in the neighborhood and would spend his summer days at the pool in Lincoln Park. She said she is excited to continue that tradition with her family and thanked Butt, who did not attend the ceremony, for his generous donation.
“This will be the basis for memories for many of our young San Antonians in the years to come,” she said, “and lots of opportunities for families to enjoy each other. ”
Full disclosure: H-E-B and Charles Butt are contributors to the Rivard Report.