People have asked us, “Why did you build a pedestrian park in Katy, Texas?” We were told, “A pedestrian park in Katy, Texas–nobody will want to go there.” They were wrong. Our off-duty HPD peace officers count park visitors. We know that on the average, about 2,000 people visit Rick Rice Park and Francesca’s Garden each month.

The reason we built it is because parks matter. While some well-meaning park advocates try to quantify the fiscal benefits, parks matter for non-quantifiable reasons. They provide a safe place for children to play, for adults to sit, exercise or just talk. They provide a place for community activities where people come together. They provide a place for young and old who want to enjoy the beauty of nature. Parks are flexible enough to fit the needs of everyone.

Parks bring people together as a community. Go to Eleanor Tinsley Park on July 4th. Walk through Hermann Park on a weekend. Parks encourage people mixing. Parks sooth the uneasy and calm the agitated. Parks are a refuge from daily life. In congested cities like New York, parks are the “green lungs” of a city, refreshing both visitors and non-visitors. Parks matter for so many different reasons. That is why we built a pedestrian park in Katy, Texas.

As a child growing up in New York City, my mother took me as a young boy to Forest Park in Queens and I never forgot the freedom to jump, run and generally make a nuisance of myself. When we moved to another part of Queens, Alley Pond Park and Crocheron Park became second homes. Going to college in Buffalo, New York, home to a comprehensive but decaying Olmsted designed park system; I saw the faded glories of a city in its decline.

Many years ago when I came to Houston, the first thing that I did was drive down Memorial Drive to find Memorial Park. Given the fact that I only had one park model in my head, I was looking for an urban park like those designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. When I wound up downtown, I realized that I had gone past the park. I had looked for a different kind of park and missed what was right in front of me. Years later as a runner, I realized that parks come in all shapes and sizes. Memorial Park was just different from those in my past.

On behalf of the Board of Directors of Interstate Municipal Utility District, I am pleased that we have had the opportunity to provide the growing Katy community with Rick Rice Park. Watch as we start the next phase of Francesca’s Garden in 2017.

Please Join us at Rick Rice Park whether with family or friends or just by yourself. It is there for you because parks really do matter.