Paris couple donates $100,000 toward redevelopment of Lake Crook

Swints with Paris City Council on Jan 13, 2014 ... Lake Crook

Members of the council came out front as Dr. Richard Swint and his wife, Susan, came to the podium to present a $100,000 check for the rejuvenation of Lake Crook. Council members are (from left) Matt Frierson, Sue Lancaster, Aaron Jenkins, John Wright, Dr. AJ Hashmi, Dr. Richard Grossnickle, and Cleonne Drake. Behind the council is City Manager John Godwin. (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)

The Paris City The Paris City Council’s plans to rejuvenate long-neglected Lake Crook as a major attraction took a step forward Monday with a $100,000 donation from Dr. Richard Swint and his wife, Susan.

The couple came to the Paris City Council podium, where Swint spoke emotionally about Lake Crook and park for several minutes before handing over the check for his wife to present to Mayor AJ Hashmi  and council.

“A park like this is for young people. It has great potential to change the character of this county and this town. It should be preserved in its entirety and reserved for people to enjoy the potential that it was initially intended to be,” Swint said.

“Lake Crook Park was a very special place in my childhood. Perhaps I am the last of the generation who can remember the glorious period of Lake Crook Park,” added Swint, who is 76. “People in Paris do not recognize the value of this sleeping asset.”

To the best of his knowledge, Swint said, the lake and the park are the largest in the state of Texas owned by a city. The lake and park grew out of the dream of J.W. Crook, mayor of Paris from 1918 to 1922.

A statement made at the time by Mayor Crook “was a very telling thing,” Swint said, noting that the park was established and developed within three years of the Fire of 1916 that destroyed much of Paris.

“Mayor Crook’s  statement was: ‘This park is for the people of this area, and it will change the people’s attitude toward being here.’ “

The park itself consists of about 3,000 acres, about 1,250 acres of which are in the lake.

“The building of it established jobs for many people in a critical era. They had a bond issue for one million dollars, in what had to be a trying time, and it passed ten to one,” Swint said.

“You need to remember that this park was constructed and the dam was erected without any assistance from federal or state levels of government. it was built by the people of Paris, Texas.”

Construction of the lake about two miles north of Paris was completed about 1923, and lights were turned on at the park in June of 1931, “a remarkable achievement,” Swint said.

“There were many concerts of the Paris Municipal Band actually held in Lake Cook Park, the grounds were mowed, they were irrigated and watered and kept up,” he added.

Swint said when he first moved back to Paris, a number of his patients asked him about the park and lake that they used to come to as children, from miles away.

Swint said he and his wife read recently an account of a lady describing in her childhood  the flower gardens that were at the park.

“And there was a pavilion and a dance floor on a high bluff overlooking the lake. It was very picturesque. There were picnic areas around the entire circumference of the lake, with permanent concrete facilities of tables and barbecue pits, and it was all well kept and groomed.”

Swint bemoaned the fact that Lake Crook in recent years has become little-used and neglected.

An important asset of this park, he said, “is that we have a raw water supply available to make this park entirely irrigated — something that will be unique to the State of Texas.”

Swint described his donation as hopefully “the start of a fund for re-establishment and restoration of this park.”

Hashmi accepted the check, saying: “On behalf of the City Council, city employees and residents of Paris, I want to tell you how much we appreciate the contribution . Thank you for investing in the community.”

One by one, council members expressed their appreciation to the Swints.

“I do remember the lake like he was describing, and i’m very excited to hopefully see this restored back,” District 6 Councilwoman Cleonne Drake said. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart and from the citizens of Paris for your generous donation.”

District 5 Councilman Matt Frierson: “Thank you so much. What a wonderful thing to do, to be able to give back to your community.”

District 4 Councilman Dr. Richard Grossnickle: “Thank you very much. That’s a wonderful donation.”

District 2 Councilwoman Sue Lancaster: “I’m very excited to see what develops out there. Thank you.”

District 1 Councilman Aaron Jenkins: “Thank you  for the donation. I’d like to get out there and see how it is. I know a lot of people talked about it back in the day.”

District 3 Councilman John Wright: “Thank you for such a generous gift. I hope someday that people will remember your gift just as you have remembered the deeds of Mayor Crook.”

Mayor Hashmi concluded: “And I want to thank you, too. I want to add that I would like to give a personal donation of $10,000 to the account.”

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra

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Charles Richards Charles Richards moved to Paris in 2004 after retiring from a 40-year career in journalism – the last 26 years as a news writer and sports writer with The Associated Press in Dallas and Washington, D.C. In mid-2004, The Paris News coaxed him out of retirement, and he began covering the police, court and regional beat for The Paris News. Then in early 2005, he was switched to coverage of a sharply divided Paris City Council. He was appointed by the City Council in 2006 to the 12-member City Charter Review Commission, which extensively rewrote the outmoded document. His writing awards include two first-place awards in statewide competition for feature writing. The most recent was his 2005 story on a Paris doctor’s startling use of leeches in a successful attempt to re-attach a man’s severed ear. Over his career, Richards’ interview subjects include Alabama Gov. George Wallace, President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, David Koresh, Arnold Palmer, Muhammad Ali and numerous other political and sports figures. He is an alumnus of Texas Tech, where he was editor of the school newspaper. He lives in Paris with his wife, Barbara, who is retired after 30 years as a teacher and high school counselor.