Ashland Was Set to Be a Food Paradise. Then Came the Almeda Fire. Now, It’s Really a Food Desert.
If you’re looking for the best, and only, local place to eat in this town, look elsewhere. You know where? Right where you are.
The Almeda fire destroyed more than 80 buildings, left residents with displaced pets, and shut down the entire east side of town. On the east side, the only fast food in town, Sonic, closed, too.
But the fire destroyed another Alameda mainstay: The Almeda Food Park. Almeda, Texas boasts the nation’s largest food park, which has been around since 1958.
Back then, the food park — which stands just off Broadway, next to the Almeda County courthouse — was a much-needed attraction for Alameda’s small community.
“I grew up in Alameda and went to school here, so I worked here for years,” says Almeda Fire Department Battalion Chief Don Killion. He remembers the early days of the park during the boom-era — when it was a big draw for weekenders from out of town. Killion knew he had to do something for the food park — despite Alameda having no sewers.
He worked himself up to getting the county to buy land for the food park, and for a while, his plan seemed to be working. The food park was thriving.
Then, in 1996, Hurricane Fran came through, and the Almeda Food Park was a complete eyesore.
“Everything got flooded. The trees on the property, the water,” Killion says.
Killion remembers sitting around a table in the old courthouse, looking at the damage, and thinking that not only had the food park come up and taken over Alameda’s only grocery store, but now it was also a complete eyesore.
So Killion decided to do something about it. He asked local developer, Tom Gartrell, to buy the property and turn it into a food park. Gartrell agreed.
“I’ve been waiting here for years, for him to get around to doing something about it,” says Killion. “And so it was frustrating, because every time