The SPARK School Park Program, created in 1983 as a way to increase park space, works in Houston and Harris County to develop public school grounds into neighborhood parks. There are 153 SPARK Parks that are currently in use.
In 2014, The Trust for Public Land, with funding from the Houston Endowment, worked through the “SPARK School Park 2014 Evaluation” project to assess the impact of SPARK Parks and develop best practices for schoolyard joint use projects. In order to do this, The Trust for Public Land worked with field staff to observe selected schoolyards (which involved the counting of park users and assessment of park conditions) and conduct brief interviews with park users. Recognizing the important role that close-to-home urban parks have in offering opportunities for recreation, physical activity and relaxation, The Trust for Public Land also developed this mapping and GIS analysis portal to help assess the potential impact of the existing parks and support and inform the creation of new schoolyard parks.
In the fall of 2017, the SPARK Park web tool was updated to reflect the latest active SPARK Parks and most current demographics. This analysis included an examination of current schools across Harris County to determine those that are located in park deserts – or outside of a ten-minute walk to a park – in order to identify new opportunities for SPARK Parks.
In the fall of 2020, the SPARK Park web tool was updated once more, to reflect the latest additions to SPARK Parks and current demographics. This update included new SPARK Parks that are a part of the Park Desert Initiatives Phases I and II, and a new analysis to examine the current impact of SPARK parks on park access for Houston and Harris County.