Students play at Carroll Elementary School SPARK park, part of SPARK's Phase I efforts.

SPARK, a Houston-based non-profit organization that helps public schools develop their playgrounds into community parks, today announced its commitment to 30 additional park projects, supported by grants of $2.5 million each from Houston Endowment and Kinder Foundation. Phase II of SPARK’s efforts to mitigate ‘park deserts’ throughout Greater Houston will create 15 new parks and update, or ‘re-SPARK,’ 15 more over the next four years.

This follow-up investment from Houston Endowment and Kinder Foundation underscores the success of Phase I, which, by the end of 2020, will have brought 25 new parks and five re-SPARKS to campuses across 12 independent school districts and three charter schools.

As with Phase I, the Phase II parks will each be designed to reflect the character of the school and surrounding neighborhood, incorporate feedback from the community and include a unique public art component. SPARK continues to raise support to fully fund Phase II of the project.

“We are grateful to Houston Endowment and Kinder Foundation for again entrusting us with the resources needed to impact neighborhoods across greater Houston,” said Kathleen Ownby, SPARK executive director. “Their support allows us to reach many more communities with new parks while also updating some of our well-loved parks.”

“Parks are powerful,” said Mark Lee, SPARK board president. “They foster community, improve health, and provide an oasis for all of us. We are honored to continue bringing these green open areas to greater Houston, many outside Loop 610.”

“SPARK’s mission to improve the lives of Houstonians by increasing park equity is in lockstep with ours, and we enthusiastically offer our continued support to help them accomplish this goal,” said Ann Stern, president and CEO of Houston Endowment.

Added Kinder Foundation President Nancy Kinder, “Kathleen’s team shares our vision that a world-class city must afford equal access to greenspace for all. We are impressed by the progress SPARK has made thus far, and eager to see their impact multiply in Phase II.”

Houston Endowment and Kinder Foundation have each previously committed $2.5 million to SPARK toward Phase I, bringing their total contributions to SPARK to $5 million each. Both foundations are committed to increasing high-quality greenspace across Houston; their previous investments include Memorial Park, Bayou Greenways 2020, Discovery Green, Buffalo Bayou Park and Emancipation Park, among others.

Ten schools have already been identified as part of Phase II, including: Arabic Immersion Magnet School (Houston ISD), Braeburn Elementary (Houston ISD), Blue Ridge Elementary (Fort Bend ISD), Carrillo Elementary* (Houston ISD), Collins Elementary* (Alief ISD), JP Henderson Elementary* (Houston ISD), Lakeshore Elementary (Humble ISD), Landis Elementary* (Alief ISD), Royalwood Elementary (Sheldon ISD) and Terrace Elementary* (Spring Branch ISD). Additional schools will be vetted and selected in the coming months. To learn more about the selection progress, visit www.sparkpark.org.

*Indicates re-SPARK projects

About SPARK

SPARK was founded by then Council Member Eleanor Tinsley in 1983. The organization has more than 150 active community parks in 17 different school districts throughout Houston plus three charter schools. Visit sparkpark.org.

Students play on the equipment at the McGowen Elementary School SPARK park, part of SPARK's Phase I plan.