Emancipation Park Conservancy helps center the community

Steeped in Black history and the heartbeat of the Third Ward, Emancipation Park may be the oldest public park in Houston.

But it is also, thanks to a $33.6 million renovation completed in 2017, a modern facility with a state-of-the-art gymnasium, community center, swimming pool and athletic fields and courts.

A plot of land bought by freed slaves in 1872, the park was originally used for Juneteenth celebrations, hence the name. In 1916 it was donated to the city as a municipal park. Due to its important history, the park was designated a UNESCO Slave Route Project site in 2019, one of seven sites in Houston to be included. As such, it is a historical landmark.

And now, thanks to the Emancipation Park Conservancy which has a 30-year joint management agreement with the City, the Park is a place for programs ranging from education and wellness to economic empowerment and arts and culture. In September the Conservancy also added Senior Activity Days.

On Mondays and Wednesdays from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. seniors can join others in the park’s recreation building for activities such as card games, dominoes, and crafts such as knitting and painting. They can also test their luck at bingo and stay fit with tailored light gym activities. Just show up on the days and times above and join in; no pre-registration needed.

“In addition to the Senior Activity Days, we offer line dancing classes every Wednesday from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. and our senior community seems to really enjoy that class as well,” said Brannon Nealy, director of marketing and communications. “Other programs include hip-hop aerobics on Mondays and Wednesdays 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and zumba classes on Tuesday and Thursdays from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.”

Still other programs have included such things as prostate screenings, National Night Out in October, where the community gathers to better get to know each and other law enforcement officers.

And there is the lecture series which has focused on such topics as the impact of COVID-19, historic parks, and a conversation with Darrin Walker, president of the Ford Foundation.

The park adheres to city park rules and regulations, specifically: It’s i open from dawn ‘til dusk, glass containers and alcoholic beverages are prohibited, no scooters or skateboards, no venders or sales without a permit, no use of firearms, dogs must be on a leash, and visitors have to pick up after their animals. Visitors should also be respectful of other patrons and keep noise levels down; there is no smoking inside or outside of park buildings.

Also, the  gymnasium and activity room are available to host special gatherings, such as wedding receptions, baby showers, receptions, and parties for a nominal rental fee
For availability and fee information, call 832-395-7400.

There’s plenty of free parking at Emancipation Park, but don’t forget that Houston Southeast and Uber now offer Uber Green, a low-emission ride option that connects you with hybrid and fully electric vehicles that can ferry you to park events. Use Uber code rRhRVsosfc6 for $10 off.

— by Marene Gustin