Monday, June 8, 2009

A Park By Any Other Name...

You’ll sometimes hear it called “Heights Park,” "Heights Playground" or “Castle Park.” In fact, many people don’t even know that the proper name is Donovan Park. The identity crisis doesn’t stop this from being one of the most popular recreation spots in the Heights. It’s even been called one the best parks in Houston. Most often referred to lovingly as "the castle park" because of its elaborate playscapes, whose Victorian-style turrets resemble a castle, Donovan is a special and unique place for Heights residents to enjoy the outdoors.

Established in 1996, the park was built by the community, for the community. Neighborhood sweat equity, after a 9 month blitz of organizing and fundraising, built the place where The Heights comes to play. Unlike most other parks in the neighborhood, this park is actually owned and operated by the The Houston Heights Association, our non-profit homeowners' association. Its upkeep is paid for by HHA dues rather than city funds like other public parks. However, this is still a public park and open for everyone to enjoy.

And there are many reasons to enjoy Donovan Park:
  • It is definitely well maintained. Just recently the park was closed for 24 hours while they power washed the play structures. You certainly don’t see that kind if upkeep in many city parks. The grass is never long and a troupe of volunteers ensures timely emptying of the trash cans.

The center of the park is a small pavilion with benches. It follows the "railroad" theme of the play area, resembling a train station. There are 4 benches which stay nicely shaded from the summer sun.

  • It’s clean and green. Grassy knolls and tree canopies make it a great place to enjoy a book or a picnic lunch. Hill rolling is optional.

  • Kids of all sizes can enjoy. Designed with feedback from neighborhood kids, there is something for every age group. The playscape on the south side is geared more toward the toddler set, with a train to conduct and scaled down climbing features. The northern structure has a balance beam, climbing wall and other activities that even those junior high kids will even admit to liking


The "train" is a favorite for toddlers on the "small side" of the park. It's hollow and perfect for a game of pretend.

Bigger kids can enjoy all kinds of climbing and agility activities.

  • It’s safe. Completely fenced in with only one exit, the park is a great place for a parent trying to accommodate more than one kiddo. As long as others *remember to close the gate* (sorry, a personal pet peeve), parents of busy bodies can breathe a little easier knowing there is only one way out.

The only operational gate, facing Heights Boulevard.

There is a second gate at the backside of the park facing Harvard, which is kept locked at all times.

There are a lot of great reasons to love Donovan Park. It was built by the hands and hearts of residents and is a true testament to that community feeling we love about The Heights. It’s a landmark and something we can all be proud of.


  1. Small corrections:
    1. Marmion Park at 18th and Heights is also owned by the Houston Heights Association.
    2. HHA is not a homeowners association. Anybody who wishes to support the Houston Heights area is free to join and welcomed.

  2. 2. Ah yes. My apologies. I am embarassed that I let that slip since I am one to correct people when they say "HHA" stands for Heights Homeowners Assoc. Can I blame it on my newborn son making me sleep deprived? How long is that excuse good for? I hope til he's 18...

  3. This park has become a private members only park. Saddens me as I am not one, but maybe one day. I'm sure this is because of the maintenance needed and desired though.

  4. Sarah, this park is NOT members only. If someone told you that, they were mistaken or lying.