By Kristi Parker Johnson

Harker Heights Herald

Several generations of the Goode and Connell families gathered together Monday morning to break ground on a piece of property they donated seven years ago to the City of Harker Heights.

The official ground-breaking ceremony was held at the future site of Goode-Connell Park on Beeline Drive. Right now, the 14-acre plot of land is just an open field of prairie grass and dirt piles, but it soon will be home to walking trails, a shaded playground area and a climbing boulder play area.

"We're also going to have a half-mile concrete walking trail, soccer practice fields, a couple of backstops for baseball and softball practices, park benches along the trails, picnic tables and a small parking lot," Parks and Recreation Director Jerry Bark said. "We're very grateful to the families for giving us this land."

The city signed the contract to take ownership of the property in November 2005, according to City Manager Steve Carpenter. Initially, poor drainage issues on the 14 acres plagued the city's efforts to come up with a cost-effective development plan.

But in April, the council awarded a $1.15 million contract to TTG Utilities of Gatesville for construction projects at Goode-Connell and Summit Soccer parks.

To save money earmarked for the drainage improvements, the city chose to purchase playground equipment, picnic tables, park benches, trash cans, grills and signage for Goode-Connell Park through its government contracts and have city staff install them. The park is slated to open in February.

Carpenter said the city hopes development of the property, located north of U.S. Highway 190 and adjacent to the old city hall site, will help renovate the older part of Harker Heights.

"We used to call (the 14 acres) the 'cane field,'" he said. "There used to be an IGA out there, near the site of the old city hall and library, where the YMCA is now. We're starting to rebuild the old part of town … and we think it's important (for the city) to keep a presence there."

The Goode and Connell families became connected decades ago through the friendship and business partnership of the late Paul Goode and Ted Connell. The two men together owned the property. After they passed away, their families decided to donate it to the city, according to Ted's wife Diane Connell.

"My husband and Paul were extremely good friends all their lives," she said. "They were early settlers here, after World War II. They were city leaders, both were on city council, and they had a lot of interest in developing this area and making this community better."

The idea of turning the property into a park and rejuvenating the older part of Harker Heights appeals to Diane.

"I'm all for green spaces," she said. 'I think it's a worthy effort to make that area nicer over there."

Goode's daughter, Paula Lohse, and her brother John agree with Diane and believe their parents would be happy about the donation.

"I know my parents were about family and tried to teach us to give back to our communities," Lohse said. "My dad and mom, her name was Lea, were the best examples of that, and I think it's something they would just love. So this is a great memorial to them."

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