The Cullinan Park Conservancy’s recent contribution of $500,000 to the City of Sugar Land is a milestone in the future development of Cullinan Park – 754 acres of mostly inaccessible forest and wetlands north of Sugar Land Regional Airport.
The donation was made possible, in part, by The George Foundation’s commitment of $1 million and the Wortham Foundation’s award of $250,000 for park improvements. Sugar Land annexed the park earlier this year after signing historic agreements with the conservancy, the City of Houston and the Houston Parks Board.
Future development of the property has long been targeted by the community and is consistent with the conservancy’s efforts to preserve the vast natural resources of the park.
“The Lucie H. and Joseph S. Cullinan Park has long been considered a natural oasis in our region,” said Director of Parks and Recreation Joe Chesser. “We’re extremely excited for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to open up this rare amenity for the community. To put this in perspective, this parkland is about the size of Central Park in New York City and nearly doubles the size of Sugar Land’s park and green space.
“While we intend to preserve its passive nature, we believe it will grow into an amenity that’s just as important. The need to do what was best for the park, not just for any one city, led to the formation of historic agreements to preserve and open up the park for greater enjoyment.”
The city is now operating and maintaining the park, which includes enhanced security; trail cleanup; lawn maintenance; and new lighting systems, signage and entry gates.
Future planned improvements include trails and boardwalks that allow greater access to existing lakes and wetlands areas, as well as locations for canoe and kayak launches into Oyster Creek. Site amenities such as picnic pavilions, benches and interpretive signage have also been identified. Planning and design will begin this year with construction to follow.
The land is currently owned by the City of Houston and Houston Parks Board and now located within Sugar Land’s city limits. The annexation by Sugar Land was the result of visionary leadership by members of the conservancy and elected leaders in Sugar Land and Houston.
The lands of Cullinan Park were first settled in 1828 by Alexander Hodge, a member of Stephen F. Austin’s Old 300. For more than 150 years, the property was used for raising cattle, sugar cane and other crops. In 1989, Cullinan Park was acquired by the Houston Parks Board and City of Houston and opened in 1991 as a nature preserve with improvements funded by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
The Cullinan Park Conservancy was formed as a non-profit corporation in 2010, as a project of the tax-exempt Houston Parks Board. The Conservancy seeks to enhance and protect the natural beauty of Cullinan Park. The conservancy is focused on a number of efforts that will help enhance the Park’s status as – in the words of its major donor Nina Cullinan – a “place of beauty and peacefulness in the city.” These efforts include mapping the park, surveying its vegetation and birdlife, planning for its trail and bridge renovations, arranging for park cleanups and organizing a photo contest about the park, its wildlife, landscapes and visitors.
“It’s an exciting time for Sugar Land and the entire region,” said Chesser. “With commitments from all parties aimed at preserving the natural beauty, improving the accessibility, and continuing the development of the park, the impacts of this historic agreement will be felt for years to come. The generous transfer of the land, the superior maintenance and operation of the park and the continued financial support contribute to its continued success.”
Learn more about the park at http://cullinanparkconservancy.org/.