Larry Johnson


ORANGE COUNTY- The vision of a waterfront park on Cow Bayou in Bridge

City became much clearer last Thursday with a proposal by landowner Ms.

Gisela Houseman.

Ms. Houseman offered the five-plus acres adjoining the Cow Bayou

Swing Bridge on Hwy-87 at a price well below market value putting it

within reach of the nonprofit Historical

Museum of Bridge City. She also offered more – to build a multi-purpose

facility overlooking the property and bayou.

The new facility will house the vast Tony and Gisela Houseman

collection of art, photography, artifacts and wildlife trophies from

around the world. The facility is intended to provide the children of

Southeast Texas an opportunity to learn about conservation, wildlife and

it’s natural habitat.

Additionally the building would also become a heritage resource center and new home for the Historical Museum of Bridge City.

On March 31, the organization, presented Ms. Houseman with plans for

a future Cow Bayou waterfront park. The presentation included an artist

rendition of the site by Bridge City High School art teacher Debbie

Greg. After discussion, Ms. Houseman expressed her agreement in the

plans by announcing, “I’m in!”

The meeting was attended by several local officials including Orange

County Judge Carl Thibodeaux, Bridge City City Manager Jerry Jones,

Orange County EDC director Bobby Fillyaw and park supporters.

On April 28, a follow-up meeting was held. Ms. Houseman revealed

that along with making the property attainable, she would also like to

build a multi-purpose visitor center there and donate the Houseman


“We were speechless, all I could say was ‘awesome,’” said Mark Dunn,

president of the Historical Museum of Bridge City, “It took a few

minutes to sink in. Ms. Houseman’s generosity is very rare. We are

fortunate that we have her here.”

Attending the meeting with Dunn was museum committee member Joe

Chenella and City Manger Jerry Jones. Houseman land manager Shawn

Sparrow and Shirley Walker were also in attendance.

The facility will be designed and constructed by Tony Houseman

Homes. The waterfront park itself will be completed in phases. A master

plan is currently being created with the help of Bridge City architect

Mark Magnuson.

The idea for a waterfront park was proposed to Ms. Houseman in 2009

by a small discussion group that included Bridge City Mayor Kirk

Roccaforte, Orange County Parks Director Donna Scales, Jones and Dunn,

then president of the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce.

Also in 2009, the Historical Museum of Bridge City became a 501 (c)

(3) nonprofit charitable organization and took the lead role in

acquiring the property. The organization sought partnership with the

City of Bridge City in August 2010. With support from the City, the

group began the process of visioning and developing plans to help

acquire the property as a waterfront park.

As envisioned, the waterfront park on Cow Bayou would be family

oriented and ideal for numerous recreational and educational activities

and events. It would include an amphitheater,

playgrounds, a broad boardwalk along the bulkhead, period style lighting

throughout the park and along the shoreline, covered picnic tables,

walking trails, floral gardens, concessions and rest rooms. Native bald

cypress, dogwoods, oaks and other vegetation would become part of

the landscape.

The land has historical significance as the site of the infamous Joe

Bailey’s Bridge City Fish Camp near the Cow Bayou Swing Bridge. The

bridge became listed to the National Register of Historic Places in

2010. The Cow Bayou waterfront location, paired with the National

Register property, is the perfect scenerio for opportunities and

benefits of history and heritage based tourism.

Add to that, the Houseman collection and the park takes on another

unique dimension providing education in natural history offering

wildlife educational programs and events. The facility will provide the

opportunity to present information on the world’s wildlife and

ecosystems that encourages discovery and understanding through fun and


Museum board members are becoming the initial donors in in the

Capital Campaign to purchase and develop the property. The Historical Museum of

Bridge City offers individual and corporate donors a tax deduction for

their charitable donations. Donations of goods and services is also tax


To donate to the waterfront park call Joe Chenella at 920-0243, Claudine Hogan at 882-7576, or Mark Dunn at 735-7183

For more information email: