Story Provided by Chris Daigle
On June 9, Houston City Council unanimously passed the recommendation from Kenneth Allen, Interim Director of the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, to rename West 11th Street Park to Lorraine Cherry Nature Preserve.
“The Parks Department is pleased to honor the memory of this outstanding Houstonian with the renaming of the park,” said Allen. ”When citizens like Dr. Cherry are invested in making their neighborhoods better, they do the work that needs to be done to make it happen. That’s what Dr. Cherry did with this park, and because of her effort, we’re a much better city.”
Starting in 1998, Cherry and a group of volunteers coordinated with community leaders, local business leaders, government officials, and the Houston Parks Board in the nine year campaign to raise funds to purchase the property from HISD.
Bridge loans were secured to temporarily bring the property off the HISD auction block. Plans were in progress to sell the 20 acres for townhouse development or to build a campus for performing and visual arts. As early as the 1950’s, there was talk of putting a junior high school there.
Texas State Senator John Whitmire said, “Lorraine’s passion and dedication to West 11th Street Park inspired me to pursue state funding to purchase the remainder of the property and end the cliffhanger over the park’s future.”
District C Council Member Abbie Kamin noted, “This is a beautiful way to preserve her memory and dedication to improving our green space in the city of Houston.”
Dr. Cherry’s community service was not limited to West 11th Street Park. She also served the Timbergrove Manor Civic Club as Chairperson for Environmental Affairs for over 10 years. She was a member of the Super Neighborhood Council 14, and Chair of Parks and Beautification. Cherry was a voice of reason and mediation for a wide range of community issues.
In addition, Lorraine acted as liaison for both the Super Neighborhood 14 and the Houston Parks Board toward the design of the Bayou Greenways and White Oak Bayou Gateway Trailhead. This three year project required many meetings discussing revisions and including community comments.
Beth White, President of Houston Parks Board, said, “West 11th Street Park is a true natural treasure that all of Houston can enjoy, and because of the efforts of Dr. Cherry and the community, we will be able to preserve this land for generations to come.
Robert Delgado, Board Member of Friends of West 11th Street Park said, “Many, many people came together to make the purchase of the park happen. At any time the deal could have fallen through. Lorraine was the glue at several crucial points that held it all together. She was successful in this because she approached the key politicians with a kind heart.”
Dr. Cherry’s legacy is one of phenomenal dedication to the improvement of green spaces in Houston. The park now has several amenities to enjoy, such as a raised trail system and a wireless cellphone tour. The park is part of the Buffalo Bayou Loop in the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail. In 2017, after Cherry passed away, the community responded with 788 signatures on a petition to rename the park in her honor.
Generations not yet born will continue to appreciate nature and learn about community service by the grass roots efforts of the neighborhood and Dr. Lorraine Cherry.
For more information , visit the Friends of West 11th Park website at West11thStreetPark.org.
Source: Friends of West 11th Street Park