Deer Park Parks and Recreation History

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Deer Park - City with a Planned Future

Deer Park was named for the private park for deer that formerly occupied the site.  Founded in 1892 by Simeon West, a railroad station was established in 1894 followed by a post village in 1902.  It wasn't until December 10, 1948, that Deer Park became an incorporated as a general law city in accordance with the provisions of the Texas Statues. 

Parkland Dedication

In 1959, Deer Park Mayor and Council passed an ordinance for general requirement of recreation dedication.  This ordinance states that "when a primary plat application for residential development is filed, it shall identify the location of an area of land to be dedicated to the city for regional trail purposes.  This area shall equal one acre for each 100 dwelling units.  The developer may be required to dedicate land for the trail system, or if no trails are required, may make payment in lieu of dedication."  

Recreational areas in the form of neighborhood parks and trail systems are necessary to protect the public health and welfare, provide for the public health by encouraging outdoor activity and exercise, and the most effective procedure to provide for these facilities is by integrating them into planning and developing property and subdivisions within the city.

Dow Park

Deer Park created its first park in 1959.  Dow Park, named after C.M. Dow, the first 20 acres of the park were dedicated in 1959 with the help of the local Petal Pushers, creating a Botanical Garden in partnership with the Deer Park Jaycees. The final 20 acres were acquired by the City of Deer Park through the help of President Richard Nixon's Legacy of Parks program in the 1970s.  For more information about Dow Park, visit the Lone Star Legacy Park page.

Parks Division & Recreation Committee

Under the direction of Public Works Director D.H. Tolar, the City of Deer Park created the Parks Division in 1951.  In 1958, City Council appointed a five (5) person ran committee that orchestrated recreation for the City of Deer Park.  With the city's continued growth, the Recreation Committee recommended to hire an official Director to form the Parks and Recreation Department.

Recreational Buildings

When Deer Park Parks and Recreation Department was created, they had two recreational buildings.  The Civic Center located at 601 Center St (present day location of Whataburger) and Kingsdale Recreation Center at 2218 Kingsdale.  Both buildings were repurposed and donated to Parks and Recreation for citizen use.  The Deer Park Civic Center was built in 1954 and was originally used by Deer Park's First Baptist Church.  Kingsdale Recreation Center, still in use today, was originally a fire station and Deer Park Public Library (1961 - 1969) before turning into a recreation center.

Deer Park Community Center

In 1974, City Council approved the construction of a new community center to be located in Dow Park.  Through bonds and a matching grant awarded by Texas Parks and Wildlife, construction of the building completed in 1975.  This first phase included a larger recreation facility that housed 6 meeting rooms, two game rooms, staff offices and a dance room.  Second phase saw the completion of the Dow Park Swimming Pool in 1978.  In 1982, the final phase added the Earl Dunn Gymnasium.  This facility included a full basketball court, two racquetball rooms and a weight room.

Theatrical Arts in Deer Park

In 1979, Deer Park Parks and Recreation supported a script-reading club at the Community Center.  This group of theatre lovers created the Not-Yet-Named Theatre Company and on October 13-14, 1979, put on their first staged production Once Upon a Mattress at Deer Park High School Gaines Mason Auditorium under the direction of the group's first Director Janine Freed.  During the intermission of this performance, they announced they would now be called the Art Park Players.   The Art Park Players is still going strong today under the direction of Susan Mele. 

Facility Growth

In order to take advantage of the growing city, several recreational facilities were added across Deer Park.

And now Parks and Recreation is growing again.  The Deer Park Community and Recreation Center is moving close to beginning new construction.  Our current facility will close on July 15, 2023, and proposed demolition of the current facility will begin on August 31, 2023.

Mike Black


Ronald Downing


Doug Burgess


Paul Wilson


Scott Swigert


Charlie Sandberg


Paul Wilson


Charlie Sandberg


Parks and Recreation Directors

  • First Director - Mike Black 1967 - 1970
  • Second Director - Ronald Downing 1970 - 1973
  • Third Director - Doug Burgess 1973 - 2009
  • Fourth Director - Paul Wilson 2009 - 2011
  • Fifth Director - Scott Swigert 2011 - 2017
  • Current Director - Charlie Sandberg 2017

Want to know more about Deer Park?  

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