Mandell Park Houston a Neighborhood Urban Harvest Oasis
Mandell Park is an urban oasis consisting of 1.22 acres near the Montrose district of Houston. The history of how this came into existence is heartening for many reasons.
At one time this piece of land was going to be used for one of the many public libraries in the Houston area. But when another location was chosen this piece of land suddenly became an unauthorized dumping ground. Obviously for the nearby neighbors as well as businesses in the area this became an eyesore!
What was a negative was turned into a positive because of the actions of some nearby neighbors. One particular lady by the name of Meredith Burke appealed to City Hall for permission to make some improvements on this land. She was an avid gardener with an obvious green thumb. When permission was given the work on the southern part of the land adjacent to neighborhood homes began.
Meredith Burke’s dream was to build an attractive and useful organic community garden. In 1992 the gardens were named in her honor. It is one of many Urban Harvest community gardens throughout our city.
The nearby Castle Court Neighborhood Association maintained the lot with the help of volunteers.
The Library Department turned over the property to the Houston Department of Parks and Recreation in the year 2004. A non-profit group of citizens called Friends of Mandell Park was established after that transfer of land ownership. They started raising funds for development and maintenance of the entire plot. Over one million dollars was raised with the help of foundations as well as individuals.
Much thought was put into the creation of Mandell Park. There was a design competition from students of architecture at the University of Houston. The winning ideas of two students were combined with the professional firm of Asakura Robinson Company which executed the plans and helped build the park into what is seen and enjoyed there today.
Winding paths can be followed through the raised garden beds where flowers, herbs and vegetables are co-mingled. Many volunteers including school children, neighbors, Boy Scouts and others help plant, weed, harvest and do other necessary jobs in maintaining these gardens. Much of the produce is donated to local Houston food banks which is wonderful!
Except for the planting of seasonal vegetables, herbs and the like, most of the vegetation used on this site is low maintenance and easily sustainable.
In portions of the park they have constructed a bioswale. In case you cannot read the posted sign shown above, the lower right hand side states the following:
“A bioswale is a landscape element designed to redirect rainwater runoff for plant use and stormwater filtration. Water flows into the bioswale, over its sloped edges, where contaminants and inorganic materials are filtered by the soil and through the root system before entering the drainage system, and eventually into natural streams and water bodies.”
Public art can be found in this park along with a Tiny Free Library in which people can take a book and return another book.
There is a raised hill area for people to enjoy. Concerts are often held there. Offerings range from jazz to punk rock, mariachi and more.
The stone seat wall surrounding this area is named after Kathrine G. and John P McGovern who donated $300,000 to this park. Philanthropy is alive and well in our fine city due to people like them plus so many others!
Many of the ornamental and shade trees have been donated to this park as living memorials.
If you live in this area you can check out the Mandell Park Facebook page to see when educational classes or other events are held. It would have been fun to attend the date in May when 3,000 ladybugs were released into the gardens.
Group gardening days are every Wednesday and Saturday from 8:30AM to Noon. Refreshments are served and people are free to come and go as they please. Volunteers are always welcomed!
I am so glad that my husband and I stopped to see this wonderful neighborhood park one day as we were driving along Richmond Avenue. It is a great gathering place for rest and relaxation along with entertainment and education. Knowing that hungry people are also being aided by those who do the gardening is an added plus!