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Joseph S. and Lucie H. Cullinan Park has a colorful history and a bright future thanks to the visionaries who wisely preserved this invaluable oasis of nature in the midst of suburban Fort Bend County. The 754-acre park is located on Hwy 6, just north of Hwy. 90A in Sugar Land, Fort Bend County. Cullinan boasts frontage on Oyster Creek and Red Gully, as well as encompassing White Lake and Pumpkin Lake. There are more than four miles of shady trails through extensive prairie and woodland acreage. It is well known as a place to enjoy birding, fishing, hiking, picnicking and other outdoor activities.
A Proud History
The Joseph S. & Lucie H. Cullinan Park was formed in 1989 when the City of Houston and the Houston Parks Board acquired the acreage with funding from the Nina Cullinan Estate, The Brown Foundation, and City of Houston Park bond funds. It is a large regional park consisting of 754 acres located to the west of Highway 6 (Addicks-Howell Road) and to the north of US 90, in Sugar Land, Texas. The Park is governed by the terms of Ms. Cullinan’s bequest that funds be used for a “place of beauty and peacefulness.”
The property was originally part of Stephen F. Austin’s ‘Old Three Hundred’ land grants and includes bottomland forests and forested wetlands. When acquired, large areas of grassland were covered by 20 years of woodland growth. Today, Cullinan Park has a broad variety of groundcover, understory, and canopy plants, providing habitat and vegetation for a diversity of wildlife.
The City of Houston purchased the land in 1989 and in 1991, Cullinan Park opened as a nature preserve with improvements funded by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It became known as a place to enjoy outdoor activities in the midst of a rapidly urbanizing area. The original Master Plan Report, prepared in 1991, envisioned an urban nature park focused on conservation of natural features and access for passive enjoyment of the Park as an urban “wilderness” experience. Vehicular access was limited to one entry from Highway 6, and large areas of the site were only accessible via a lengthy hike. Recreation for young children and group activities represented a limited portion of planned park use.
Cullinan Park Conservancy was created by the Houston Parks Board, became a 501(c)3 in 2013 and was comprised of board members who are residents of Houston and Fort Bend County. The role of the Conservancy is to fundraise and plan for Park enhancements, promote conservation of its natural vegetation and wildlife, organize community-wide events, and raise awareness. In 2015, because of Cullinan Park’s location in the Sugar Land ETJ, the City of Sugar Land annexed and agreed to protect and maintain the park.
As of January 2016, the Park is managed under an Interlocal Agreement between the City of Houston and the City of Sugar Land. Sugar Land has responsibilities for operating and maintaining the Park while the Conservancy seeks to support its efforts with private resources.
The lands of Cullinan Park were first settled in 1828 by Alexander Hodge, a member of Stephen F. Austin’s Old Three Hundred. For more than 150 years, this Columbia Bottomland country was used for raising cattle, sugar cane, and other crops. The property has yielded a number of pre-historic and historic artifacts. In recent decades, large areas of grassland have been covered with woodland growth, significantly altering the biologic and visual character of the site.
A walk around Cullinan's White Lake Trail will lead you to historic Hodges Bend Cemetery. Hodge (born 1760) brought his family to Texas in 1825. His sons fought in the Texas Revolution. His 1828 land grant from Stephen F. Austin included the site for the cemetery. The first grave was that of his wife Ruth who died in 1831. Hodge was buried here in 1836. The cemetery contains about 70 graves, including those of Hodge's descendants and other early settlers of the area. Most of the headstones date back to the 1850s. There haven't been any burials in the cemetery since 1942, but many of the headstones are still fully legible. Although the White Lake Trail goes through the cemetery, it is actually outside Cullinan Park boundaries and maintained by another organization.