Monday, September 7, 2015

Kerrville's Louise Hays Park: built in a single day

Louise Hays Park, taken on April 25, 1950.
The park was built in a single day.
Over the past few weeks, I've been sharing passages from a handwritten history of our community, written some years ago by Anna Belle Roland, the aunt of one of my fellow history detectives, Lanza Teague.
I've enjoyed reading the 84-page document, because it's obvious it was written with a love for Kerrville and Kerr County.
It also features first-hand memories of Ms. Roland, which enrich the history she's recording. It's one thing to write about events which occurred well before your lifetime; it's another to write about events you remember.
One of the big community events Ms. Roland remembered was the building of the Louise Hays Park in the center of Kerrville.
"The people of Kerrville," she writes, "like people everywhere, took one of their greatest assets for granted.
"In the late 1940s they became aware of the fact that it was almost impossible to get to the river. River frontage had been bought up and fenced; gone were the places to fish, swim, and picnic.
"Why did this happen? Partly for the reason just stated; they took for granted that it would always be theirs to enjoy. Also, the devastating floods of 1932 and 1935 had discouraged any desire for development along the river. The Methodist Encampment swimming hole had been destroyed; Lakeside Park was ruined; Silver Park was gone; the Presbyterian Encampment swimming hole was ruined and fenced; and the old mill dam in the downtown area had been washed away.
"However, with the realization that we must have access to the river if tourists were to continue to come, citizens began to plan. Two dams were [eventually] constructed to provide recreation: the Ingram Dam and Flat Rock Dam," Ms. Roland writes.
For most of its history, Kerrville stopped along the northern edge of the Guadalupe River. This was true even as late as the 1960s. When Ken Stoepel Ford built their new dealership south of the river, several people asked Mr. Stoepel why he'd want to build a car dealership "out in the country."
Ms. Roland continues:
"In 1950 Mr. and Mrs. Bob Hays offered to Kerrville a 35 acre tract fronting on the south side of the river just opposite the downtown area for a park, if Kerrville would develop it.
"Citizens joined in a city-wide project to develop a park in a day. On April 25, 1950, all able-bodied men left their businesses, and joined by 200 high school students, totaling some 1,000 volunteers, set about cleaning and clearing the area.
"At the end of the day, it was usable. Later, a dam was built and other improvements were made. The community effort lowered the cost to less than $20,000.
"It was named Louise Hays Park in honor of its donor, Mrs. Hays. It was indeed an asset to Kerrville, and through the years provided a spot of beauty and recreation to thousands.
The Louise Hays Park, which has only recently reopened, has indeed provided a much-needed recreational spot along the river. In its early days, it boasted a miniature golf course and water ski shows. There was even a giant jet in the children's playground.
These days it has a nice spray park, a small band shell, a long walkway along the river, and, in the summer, canoes and bicycles for rent.  And swimming there, especially on a hot summer day, is wonderful. Not bad for a little town in Texas: a gem of a park right in the middle of the business district.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has spent many happy hours at Louise Hays Park, first as a child, and then later with his own children.


  1. That bridge sure looks different from the one I remember in the 70's.

  2. I still have the original sign in paper for the project. Fifteen contractors from the kerrville area donated there time and equipment for the city park.


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