West of downtown Houston, near the headwaters of Buffalo Bayou, a massive flood control project built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stands ready to hold back potential floodwaters. Addicks Reservoir, north of Interstate 10, and Barker Reservoir, to its south, together constitute nearly 26,000 acres set aside as flood zones to retain runoff from storms that would otherwise rush downstream and swamp roadways, homes, and businesses in metropolitan Houston. Most of the year, these wide-open spaces are free of floodwater. They were set aside for secondary uses after the reservoirs were built, mostly for agricultural purposes and oil and gas leases.The City of Houston recognized the recreational potential for this land, particularly in regard to the explosive suburban growth that part of the city has experienced. The Cullen Foundation donated substantial funds to be matched by the city in a continuing program to develop park resources in Addicks Reservoir, and in 1973 City Council approved a plan to lease a large tract from the Corps of Engineers. They named it Cullen Park.Usage studies and planning followed, and the lease was formally signed in February 1983. Construction on Phase 1 began in 1984, with subsequent projects following. The result of this activity is one of Americaâ€™s largest urban parks, 9,269.82 acres of outdoor recreational potential, much still in a natural state.Park AttractionsA ball field complex beckons athletes to batter up and swing for the outfield, and soccer enthusiasts have well-kept fields to play on. HPARD holds organized sporting leagues throughout the year at these facilities, which teams can participate in via the Recreation Division. Picnic areas invite folks to dine outdoors, with covered tables near playground equipment and barbecue facilities. One picnic area is in a fine old pecan grove. There are wide-open fields all around them, perfect for dog walking and flinging a disc.Park visitors interested in enjoying the scenery can walk or ride their bikes along the paved trail that begins at the Phase II picnic area and ends 3.34 miles later at Highway 6. The trail takes you past a historic cemetery that predates the reservoir, wildflower plantings, 2 wetland environments, and through the shade of splendid oaks. In addition, there are 5 miles of trails in other areas of the park, some of which follow the picturesque banks of Mayde Creek. The Archery Range previously at Memorial Park has been moved to Cullen Park. It is located in an isolated area for safety purposes, at the eastern edge of the park. You can find it at 13751 Clay Road.Kids can cool off in hot weather at the HEB water playground. Running under the oversized misting flowers, cavorting beside the spouting whale, and getting hit by water squirting from surprise geysers will exercise the little ones and delight their sense of whimsy. And, why shouldnâ€™t grown folks indulge themselves, too?Cyclists can enjoy the Alkek Velodrome, one of only 19 such facilities in the country. The 333-meter outdoor banked cement track was built in 1986 when Houston hosted the U.S. Olympic Festival and it’s certified by the Union Cycliste Internationale, the international governing body for cycling sports.The park includes several soccer fields, picnic areas and playgrounds, along with more than seven miles of hike and bike trails. The 12-foot wide trails are ideal for walkers, inline skaters, cyclists and joggers and are framed by wild flowers and large, spreading oaks.