People + Parks: A Legacy of Park Stewardship

Grant Ausbury 
People + Parks
, All Parks, People + Parks

Pastor Edward Clarence Craig, Jr. was born to Edward Moses Craig and Frankie Black Craig in Austin, Texas on February 24, 1948 - the fourth of five children. He was educated through Austin public schools, and attended Nixon-Clay College and Huston-Tillotson College.

Pastor Edward & Brenda Craig in their neighborhood park

He received his spiritual upbringing at Mt. Olive Baptist Church, and acknowledged his call to ministry and was ordained in 1978. In 1996, he graduated from the Graduate Seminary Extension School of Southern Baptist Ministries with an emphasis in Pastoral Ministries.

As a life-long Austinite and community leader, it was no surprise that Pastor Craig made improving his neighborhood a family affair. His wife Brenda, their children, and his congregation at Great Commission Baptist Church, adopted Franklin Park with the mission of creating a safe community gathering space.

After years of dedicated advocacy and stewardship, Pastor Craig passed away October 2, 2017, and the park was re-named in his honor. Below is a short history of some of the amazing work Pastor Craig and this committed team were able to accomplish.

Watch Community Ties: The Story of Franklin Park

Franklin Park Reborn

There was a time that residents of the Franklin Park neighborhood in Southeast Austin wouldn’t dare walk through the lush, 5-acre green space tucked into a cul-de-sac in their neighborhood.

Even in the daytime, the park, then known as Franklin Neighborhood Park, was considered off limits. One neighbor had a policy of walking her dog only as far as a railing that stands 20 feet from the perimeter, for fear of her safety once she hit park grounds.

Despite the walking path, playground and picnic tables, the park was best known for its graffiti, trash, and high crime rate. Today, thanks to the dedicated leadership of Brenda and Pastor Edward Craig, as well as their friends, neighbors and partners, the park is a source of pride.

The Craigs were motivated to improve the park after the church they led purchased nearby land to build a permanent home. “We wanted to support the neighborhood and to focus on not just the spiritual needs, but the material ones as well,” Edward said.

Revitalizing Franklin Park

In 2013 the Craigs worked with representatives from non-profit Go Austin/Vamos Austin (GAVA) and a committee of citizens to secure a $13,000 grant from Austin Parks Foundation. Their goal: to make Franklin Park a safer and healthier place for the neighborhood.

The Craigs look over photos and memories at Franklin Park

With the APF grant money, the team upgraded and added picnic tables, barbecue pits and a volleyball pit. They installed lighting, flower beds, porta-lets and a ping-pong table. Their team of volunteers logged 1,933 hours.

When Franklin Park began transforming, many residents noticed and began pitching in. A neighbor who owns a landscaping company donated staff time to help mulch the trees and maintain the flower beds.

More neighbors began participating in Neighborhood Watch Groups, and residents started to call authorities when they saw graffiti or suspicious activities at the park. According to Austin Police Department reports, the area’s crime rate decreased 38 percent in 2014 after the park improvements were made.

The Craigs had even more plans for the park, and the team still meets monthly to discuss ongoing maintenance as well as other improvements on their wish list. Of all the ways the neighborhood is showing its support, perhaps the most powerful is that they are returning to the park and using it just the way the Craigs envisioned: playing and exercising outside, picnicking with family and gathering with friends.

"Getting the APF grant was incredible--somebody believed in us! But in addition to the funding, APF also helped us set realistic goals and stay on track. After the success we’ve had, I’m more determined than ever to make these other improvements happen. The greatest thing to see is how the residents are getting involved and taking ownership. There is a real sense of pride here.”
Brenda Craig

A Park In Honor

In 2018, just months after Pastor Craig’s passing, the City of Austin’s Parks & Recreation Department officially re-named Franklin Neighborhood Park after the man that led his community through true stewardship. Today, Pastor Edward Clarence Craig Jr. Park (or Pastor Craig Park for short) is thriving.

Neighbors, Volunteers, Park Adopters, & Pastor Craig’s family continue to carry the torch forward. The team at Pastor Craig Park has partnered with APF, and the City of Austin to install outdoor fitness equipment as well as re-surface and stripe the basketball court. They continue to maintain the park with many volunteers to ensure a safe and fun park!

Neighbors and friends of Pastor Craig gather for the renaming of Franklin Park to Pastor Edward Clarence Craig Jr. Park

This park is a beautiful reflection of the hard work, dedication and care Pastor Craig gave to the Austin community. Austin Parks Foundation is grateful to have played a part in the history of this park, and to have known such a gracious and steadfast community leader.

Thank you, Pastor Craig, for your dedication to your neighborhood, community and park.