DANIEL CLIFTON • EDITOR
MARBLE FALLS — As Bessie Jackson recounted how Johnson Park impacted the Marble Falls community, she shared the story of how, more than 120 years ago, the congregation of St. Frederick Baptist Church first met under some trees in the park. She quickly pointed out that the park hasn’t just welcomed church members, but everyone.
“More than anything else, I like the fellowship at the park,” Jackson told people during the Lone Star Legacy Park presentation April 22 at Johnson Park. “It’s an ecumenical community, this park. Everybody is welcome here.”
Marble Falls leaders, community members and Johnson Park enthusiasts gathered at the pavilion at Johnson Park, 230 Ave. J South, for the official designation of the park as a Lone Star Legacy Park by the Texas Recreation and Park Society. City officials — led by former Marble Falls Parks and Recreation Commission member Steve Manley — worked to get the designation.
Parks and Recreation Director Robert Moss summed up Manley’s efforts during the program.
“Behind effort like this there is a champion,” he said. “Our champion for this is Steve Manley.”
The designation wasn’t just handed out. Moss and others worked to put together a packet that Texas Recreation and Park Society officials reviewed before awarding the honor.
“To receive this honor, the park must have played a significant role in the community,” TRAPS executive director Michal Anne Lord said during the April 22 presentation. She went on to explain several other requirements, including the park must be more than 50 years old, something Johnson Park clearly meets.
In fact, Gen. Adam Johnson, the founder of Marble Falls, included the park in the city’s initial plat some 130 years ago.
“If these old pecan trees could talk, what kind of stories would they tell?” Moss said.
Fortunately, he added, there were people willing to share their stories and thoughts on the park.
The Rev. Ross Chandler of First Baptist Church of Marble Falls told the history of that church and how a bunch of cowboys more than 100 years ago decided the town needed a Baptist church because “there was a Methodist church.” They held the church’s first gathering under the trees at Johnson Park.
“They rode upon their horses,” he said of those early services.
Those early times in the park, Chandler said, really laid the foundation of the church. The park, he said, continues to draw people.
Jennifer Fierro (in full disclosure Fierro is a reporter for The Picayune and DailyTrib.com) was born and raised in Marble Falls. She shared several personal stories on how the park has been such a big part of her and her family’s lives. Fierro said it’s where her father first began courting her mother, leading her to believe that if it wasn’t for Johnson Park, she might not even be around today.
But for everyone, she explained, the park is so much more than a bunch of trees.
“I think about how this place strengthens our bonds,” Fierro said. “While it’s great to get this award, I can tell you that, for me, it’s not necessary to know it’s such an special place.”