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Cameron Park Celebrates History, Tradition Throughout Centennial Summer

June 30, 2010

Cameron Park

Cameron Park2

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Jonathan Cook of the city parks department says it's a juxtaposition that's a little jarring the first time somone visits Cameron Park. Just blocks from one of the busiest highways in the country, 416 wooded acres with trails, rivers, views, and serenity, right in the heart of town.

Cook enthusiastically gives me a tour of the park, interjecting tidbits about the summer-long hundredth anniversary celebration with facts from the early days of the park. There's also a new book out this summer. Mark Firmin, then a Baylor graduate student, made a history of the park his thesis. That work, combined with photographs of the park comprise "William Cameron Park, A Centennial History," available from Baylor Press. Firmin spent countless hours researching the park and says it's the people who made the park and the history of the areas that stand out and spark the imagination. one area that has seen all of those aspects is Proctor Springs, one of the original pieces of land donated by the William Cameron family. A peaceful strip with the eponymous spring bordered by steep hills, it's interesting to imagine that this was once a bona fide area draw, with thousands visiting to experience the water. Jonathan Cook took me there and talked about its history.

Those wading pools and the surrounding land, says Firmin, were a gathering site for a variety of groups with a sad historical footnote. Further into the park, Jacob's Ladder towers over a lot and the Brazos River. It's interesting that one of the park's biggest attractions is man-made. The ladder is an incredibly step set of steps climbing nearly 100 feet to the top of a bluff. We climbed to the top, keeping our eyes on the different-sized steps.

Jacob's Ladder was originally built by a family at the top of the bluff to have a way to get to the river. It's easy to imagine the thrill for the children of the adventure of climbing down an imposing staircase to get to explore the river below. It's also interesting to think about how they built it over 100 years ago in the first place.

I counted 88 steps going up, 87 going down. So there was a discrepancy in my counting somewhere. Nonetheless, Jacob's Ladder has provided a challenge to park-goers over the course of the last 100 years, and provides a nice view of the river and a soon-to-be-reopened clubhouse. We'll continue our look at Cameron Park tomorrow at the Mouth of the Bosque and the famous Lover's Leap. Pictures and details about Firmin's Book "William Cameron Park, A Centennial History" are available online. For KWBU news, I'm Derek Smith.

Photography Book of Cameron Park

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