LANDA PARK. Landa Park, located near downtown New Braunfels, is a city park comprising 196 acres. Comal Springs and fourteen-acre Landa Lake are part of the park. The springs issue from a natural opening in the limestone from the Edwards Aquifer along the Balcones Fault and are home to two aquatic species-the endangered fountain darter and the threatened San Marcos salamander. The park's rolling hills with limestone intrusion are surfaced by dark calcareous stony clays and clay loams that support oak, juniper, pecan and other hardwoods, and grasses. Before European settlement the area was a popular campsite for Indian tribes. An abundant number of artifacts and burial mounds have been found at the site, which was the location of an early Spanish mission, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, from 1756 to 1758, and was part of the Juan Martín de Veramendi league when the first German settlers founded New Braunfels in 1845. At the time, the parksite was called Las Fontanas. In 1847 New Braunfels settler William H. Merriweather bought the Comal Springs tract. Merriweather built a saw and grist mill and a cotton gin on the property. His slaves dug a millrace to divert water for power.
Merchant Joseph Landa purchased the property on May 15, 1860. His son Harry Landa took over the family businesses after Joseph's death in 1896. During the 1890s the Landa property became known as Landa's Pasture and was a popular picnic spot. In 1897, while visiting the Landa estate, Helen Gould, daughter of railroad financier Jay Gould, impressed by the beauty of the spot, suggested that the International and Great Northern build a spur into the property; Landa's Park was established by 1898. Within a few years of the first railroad spur, the Missouri, Kansas and Texas also built a track into the park. Excursion trains from San Antonio and Austin brought tourists to Landa's Park, which was hailed as one of the most popular resorts in the Southwest. A hotel and bathhouse facility called Camp Placid opened in the early 1900s, and bathers took advantage of the spring-fed pool. Baseball was a popular park event. A playing field and grandstand served the local team, the New Braunfels Tigers. Visiting major league stars played exhibition games, and Dizzy Dean (see DEAN, JAY HANNA) was a member of the Tigers for a season during the late 1920s. Several major league teams, including the Philadelphia Phillies, chose Landa Park as their spring training camp.
In 1927 Harry Landa sold his property in accordance with his mother's will, which stipulated that the Landa estate be liquidated ten years after her death. Jarrett Investment Company purchased the property with a loan from Trinity Universal Insurance Company, which took over the park after Jarrett suffered financial losses during the Great Depression. The park was closed in 1933 and surrounded by a barbed-wireqv fence. Concerned community citizens led by E. P. Nowotny and the New Braunfels Junior Chamber of Commerce called for a petition for the city to purchase the property. In a bond election citizens voted three to one to save the park, and on May 25, 1936, the city purchased 128 acres that included the headwaters, adjoining springs and property, and the De Paw Farm for $80,000. After the purchase, on May 30, 1936, more than a thousand citizens volunteered to clean up the park, plant flowers, and begin renovation of facilities.
The city later purchased forty-two acres of Panther Canyon, a natural area just above the Comal headwaters. Panther Canyon has a test well to monitor the level of the Edwards Aquifer. In 1984 another thirty acres was purchased from the Lower Colorado River Authority, and in 1991 the city had a fifty-year lease on eighteen additional acres owned by the LCRA, with plans for botanical gardens and walkways. The park serves New Braunfels citizens and tourists from Texas and out-of-state. Facilities include a playground, picnic sites, a spring-fed pool and an Olympic-sized swimming pool, paddle boats, a miniature train, a restaurant, a miniature golf course and an eighteen-hole golf course, and tennis courts. In 1981 Landa Park became a registered arboretum with approximately ninety-six species of trees identified. Visitors can walk the Harry Landa Tree Trail and the Panther Canyon Nature Trail. Major park events include Wasserfest in June, Wurstfest in November, summer concerts, and Fourth of July fireworks. Trout fishing is popular during the winter after stocking.
Gunnar Brune, Springs of Texas, Vol. 1 (Fort Worth: Branch-Smith, 1981). Oscar Haas, History of New Braunfels and Comal County, Texas, 1844–1946 (Austin: Steck, 1968). Harry Landa, As I Remember... (San Antonio: Carleton Printing Company, 1945). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.