All of the Lake of Friendswood Park will remain open to visitors, at least for the time being.
After a contentious hearing Wednesday, both sides in a longstanding dispute over who owns parts of the land the park rests on agreed to keep to the status quo as the issue winds its way through the court.
“I believe both sides are in agreement that they will not destroy any property or erect any impediments to public use,” Judge John Ellisor said.
The issue over the park began when attorneys representing Joseph Tostado asserted the city of Friendswood is using both its own property and his property for a park, and that officials have closed off roads around his land limiting its usefulness, court records show. At one point, Robert Clements Jr., an Alvin attorney representing Tostado, even threatened to remove the park facilities.
Tostado inherited more than 5 acres south of the Lake of Friendswood from his father.
Based on Wednesday’s hearing, however, the issue of ownership appears somewhat complicated, rooted in multiple plats going all the way back to 1911. Over the course of almost two hours, attorneys for both sides questioned a land surveyor hired by the city to determine property boundaries before the $1 million park project began.
The city recently finished the park project at Lake Friendswood, which voters approved in a 2013 bond election. A 1-mile concrete path and boardwalk surrounds the park with benches, picnic tables and exercise equipment.
Tostado’s relatives in 1993 went to court over land ownership claims, and that lawsuit ended with a judge giving land back to them, with the exception of an easement the city used more recently to build the park, argued Bill Helfand, an attorney representing Friendswood.
Chuck Davis, a land surveyor, testified the city was within its rights to build on the easement. But Clements questioned whether anyone had documented proof of an easement on Tostado’s land.
“Do you have a piece of paper showing the exact square footage dedicated for this easement?” Clements asked Davis.
Davis testified that he did not, but that it’s implied because of earlier documents.
Wednesday’s hearing was over a temporary injunction the city requested after Clements gave the city until March 16 to address concerns about the parts of the park in question, although Tostado’s attorneys have taken a less aggressive stance since then.
But Ellisor on Wednesday did not make an official ruling on the injunction, saying there were still matters that needed to come before the court. But both sides agreed not to make any changes to the park until the case proceeds.
Tostado first filed the lawsuit against the city in January 2018.
Before Wednesday’s hearing, Clements told The Daily News he would only place a fence around Tostado’s property if the injunction was denied. But at the hearing, Clements agreed they would not even do that.
Tostado, however, wants the city to remove all the park benches, city signs, concrete sidewalks, a boardwalk, fences, a footbridge and all gates and obstacles obstructing access to Windmere Road and McFarland Drive, Clements wrote to Helfand in the Feb. 18 demand letter.