Mandell Park in Houston: Neighborhood Urban Harvest Oasis
Urban Oasis in Montrose
Mandell Park is an urban oasis consisting of 1.22 acres near the Montrose district of our city, located at Richmond Avenue and Mandell Street. The history of how it 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 picked instead, 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 turned into a positive because of the actions of some nearby residents. 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 apparent green thumb. When permission was given, the work on the southern part of the area 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 maintains the lot with the help of volunteers.
Friends of Mandell Park
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 started after that transfer of land ownership. They began raising funds for the development and maintenance of the entire plot. Over one million dollars was secured with the help of foundations as well as individuals.
Design and Construction of the Park
Much thought went 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, plus the professional firm of Asakura Robinson Company that executed the plans, helped build the park into what is seen and enjoyed there today.
Winding paths go through the raised garden beds where flowers, herbs, and vegetables co-mingle. 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 terrific!
Native prairie wildflowers are also grown to encourage birds, bees, and butterflies, which is so very important for the Monarch butterflies who seasonally pass through this area.
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 the soil filters contaminants and inorganic materials through the root system before entering the drainage system, and eventually into natural streams and water bodies.”
Concerts, Classes, and More
Public art is 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 often take place there. Offerings range from jazz to punk rock, mariachi, and more.
The stone seat wall surrounding this area has the names of Kathrine G. and John P McGovern, who donated $300,000 to this park. Philanthropy is alive and well in our beautiful city due to people like them plus so many others!
Donations of many of the ornamental and shade trees in this park function as living memorials.
If you live in this area, you can check out the Park’s Facebook page to see when educational classes or other events occur. It would have been fun to attend the date in May when 3,000 ladybugs 8:30 AM into the gardens.
Group Gardening Days in Mandell Park
Every Wednesday and Saturday from 8:30 AM to Noon are group gardening days. Refreshments are on site, and people are free to come and go as they please. Volunteers are always welcome!
I am so glad that my husband and I stopped to see this beautiful neighborhood park one day as we were driving along Richmond Avenue. It is a great gathering place for rest, along with entertainment and education. Knowing that those who do the gardening are also aiding hungry people is an added plus!
The best place to find God is in a garden. You can dig for him there.— George Bernard Shaw
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2020 Peggy Woods