Arlington Rotary Club's involvement in the creation of the Arlington Parks and Recreation Department
Over the last century the parks system in Arlington has been greatly influenced by the Rotary Club of Arlington. In fact the club could be considered the founder of the current park system.
The population of Arlington in 1923 was estimated at 3,031. It was in this environment Rotarians championed Arlington’s first public park. Through the efforts of Rotarians Tom Cravens and Zack Bobo the city was encouraged to develop what is now Meadowbrook Park in East Arlington. The Park was officially opened in 1924. Obviously it is also approaching a 100th year anniversary.
The Club continued to support the park by furnishing playground equipment and organizing youth activities. Over the years Meadowbrook Park was a central gathering point for generations with a zoo, swimming pool, playground, picnic areas and an activity center. The zoo effectively went away when the monkeys all escaped.
After Meadowbrook, Dr. Zack Bobo (a heavy proponent of healthy youth activities) talked E.G. Senter of Dallas out of eighteen lots down on Mary Street. The Arlington Rotary Club bought three more lots to make room for the first city-wide summer recreation program. This was opened early in 1947 with all volunteer help. This park is named Senter Park in honor of the donor’s father. The Rotary Club deeded this land to the city and this was the second park in Arlington.
The summer softball program was operated by the Rotarians until the city appointed a park board and employed a paid staff. This same year a few lots were purchased on North Elm for softball and a playground. This recreation site was named Bobo Park.
“Doc” Bobo so inspired the members, and especially Duncan Robinson, that the next year the Rotary Club bought another playground in northeast Arlington for $700.00. The property was owned by Harvey Pirie and subsequently named Pirie Park. It still exists today.
Since those early days the Rotary Club has always been involved in support for the Arlington parks system not only through contributions but personal involvement on committees, organizing and running youth sports leagues and the Arlington Parks Board. Members of that board included long time member Bob Cooke. More recent members include Joe Way, Clete McAlister, and Val Gibson.