New/old leadership named at Evelyn’s Park — plus a promise of food, shade

Sixteen months after it opened, Evelyn’s Park has new leadership.

By Charlotte Aguilar

The Evelyn’s Park Conservancy Board announced Thursday (Aug. 30) that it has hired interim director and board president Patricia King-Ritter as its new fulltime staff director to manage the park, and has chosen founding board member Lou Waters to serve as president.

“This really is very much the next step forward for us,” said Waters of the park, which opened in April 2017, “the next phase.”

He cited the pair’s long connection with the conservancy as influencing the decision — he serving since the board’s beginning, including in leadership roles, and King-Ritter’s five years as board president and six months in the interim director’s role, since executive director Denton Ragland left suddenly on Feb. 9.

Waters and King-Ritter told Essentials/InstantNewsBellaire that they are in negotiations for a new tenant for the park’s café, which has gotten by with pop-up tenants since the original Ivy & James eatery closed in July, and expect to have an announcement soon.

And on the issue of shade — critical until carefully sited trees can mature — Waters said three large commercial umbrellas have been purchased and will ship on Sept. 24, with an early October target for installation. The umbrellas have adjustable bases and can be moved around to areas where shade is needed.

Additionally, final arrangements are in the works for installation of a multi-function water fountain purchased and stored since earlier this year that will permit drinking, filling of bottles, and offer a mist for cooling. It will be located convenient to the children’s play area and the Great Lawn.

“Everything’s rolling,” said Waters, “and with the experience with the park, the events, the programming…that ‘enrich your everyday’ idea, we really want to become a place where people will come every day.”

Although the conservancy manages the five-acre park at 4400 Bellaire Blvd., a gift of the Jerry and Maury Rubenstein Foundation to honor their mother, Evelyn, there is strong city involvement.

In 2013, taxpayers in Bellaire approved $5 million in bond funds toward the park’s construction, city ordinances govern activities at the park, and the Parks & Recreation Department provides most routine maintenance services. Both King-Ritter and Waters have served as the city of Bellaire’s City Council-appointed representatives to the board.

The conservancy’s next quarterly presentation to the City Council is set for the council’s Sept. 17 meeting.