THE PUBLC GREEN
Establishing city and county parks for public use has a long tradition in America, one that was perhaps a reaction to England’s “common” lands in which estate and manor properties such as pastures and forests were made available for public use but remained in private hands. Not so in the U.S. where city and county parks are owned and administrated by the public under the stewardship of elected officials. Over 96% of Texas, however, is privately owned, requiring cities and counties to depend on the largesse of private land owners (or the financial generosity of the public) to acquire land and designate it for public use. The quiet little Post Park five miles south of Marathon, for example, exists today courtesy of the generous donation by a surrounding landowner in the early 1900s. Today, the tiny park with its year-round live water source serves as a favorite birding destination, recognized nationwide for its reliable population of migrants. Elsewhere, city parks are often the only means of outdoor activity for neighboring citizens, the result of attentive elected officials who understand both the health and economic benefits of green spaces among the urban dynamic. Historically, county parks were often the site of the earliest county fairs and dances, providing a common ground for meeting, greeting and celebration, important activities in maintaining civility and social well-being.