SPARK Week brings 3 new SPARK parks to HISD 

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It’s been a long time coming, and Lyons Elementary School students can’t wait to use their newly rededicated SPARK Park. The updated park opened on Tuesday, with a jungle-themed ceremony that included performances by the school band, cheerleaders, choir, and ballet folklórico.

SPARK Park board members joined representatives from the U.S. Congress, Texas House of Representatives, and Houston City Council, as well as landscape architect Lauren Griffith, at the exuberant rededication. The original Lyons SPARK Park opened in 2004.

A second SPARK Park is being dedicated at HISD’s Houston Academy for International Studies on Saturday at 9:30 a.m., and ground is being broken on a third at the new Mandarin Immersion Magnet School on Friday at 1:30 p.m. HAIS’s park includes a sand volleyball court, fitness equipment, a resurfaced basketball court, sidewalk, and benches. The new MIMS park will feature play structures, a seat wall, and new paving. Both ceremonies will include city, state and U.S. representatives, as well as other dignitaries.

Dozens of HISD schools have SPARK parks, including a few middle and high schools. The award-winning SPARK program, which develops neighborhood parks on public school grounds, was founded in 1983 by Eleanor Tinsley, then a member of Houston City Council. Since that time, SPARK has built more than 200 community parks in 12 different school districts around the greater Houston area.

Each park is designed and inspired by the ideas and needs of each particular school and the surrounding neighborhood. A typical SPARK Park consist of playground equipment, a walking path and trees, picnic tables and benches, and an outdoor classroom. Since 1991, each park has included a public art component, which may take the form of murals, mosaics, or sculptures. Local artist Rose Toros worked on the original totems at Lyons and directed the creation of the new Lion mosaic mural by Lyons summer school students.

The Lyons SPARK Park also features a NEW concrete walking trail, playground equipment, exercise station, soccer field, and picnic tables. The total cost of the project was $169,590, of which Lyons students raised $50,000 through sales of cookie dough and NFL cups, as well as fundraising at school festivals. HISD provided $5,000, the City of Houston Housing and Community Development Dept. contributed $98,500, and Houston City Council Member Karla Cisneros donated $13,261 from her Council discretionary funds to purchase a sound garden, EQ surfer, and ant hill.

All the Lyons students also received the new 2017 SPARK calendar, which features pictures of their park on the August page.