Mandell Park in Houston: Neighborhood Urban Harvest Oasis

Updated on April 14, 2020
Peggy W profile image

I live in Houston, and I have worked as a nurse. My interests include art, traveling, reading, gardening, cooking, and our wonderful pets.

Mandell Park in Houston
Mandell Park in Houston | Source

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!

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Park SignPicnic Tables in Mandell Park Swinging Bench in Mandell Park
Park Sign
Park Sign | Source
Picnic Tables in Mandell Park
Picnic Tables in Mandell Park | Source
Swinging Bench in Mandell Park
Swinging Bench in Mandell Park | Source

Meredith Burke

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.

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Meredith Gardens in Mandell ParkView of Raised Garden Beds Raised Garden Beds Food is grown in Mandell Park
Meredith Gardens in Mandell Park
Meredith Gardens in Mandell Park | Source
View of Raised Garden Beds
View of Raised Garden Beds | Source
Raised Garden Beds
Raised Garden Beds | Source
Food is grown in Mandell Park
Food is grown in Mandell Park | Source

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.

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Orange Nasturtiums Purple Larkspur
Orange Nasturtiums
Orange Nasturtiums | Source
Purple Larkspur
Purple Larkspur | Source

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.

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Sign showing how a Bioswale worksView of Compost Areas Compost Areas in Mandell ParkMandell Park Food grown in Mandell Park Mandell Prairie Garden Wildflowers SignNative wildflowers grown in Mandell Park Rosemary grown in Mandell Park Louisiana Iris grown in Mandell Park
Sign showing how a Bioswale works
Sign showing how a Bioswale works | Source
View of Compost Areas
View of Compost Areas | Source
Compost Areas in Mandell Park
Compost Areas in Mandell Park | Source
Mandell Park
Mandell Park | Source
Food grown in Mandell Park
Food grown in Mandell Park | Source
Mandell Prairie Garden Wildflowers Sign
Mandell Prairie Garden Wildflowers Sign | Source
Native wildflowers grown in Mandell Park
Native wildflowers grown in Mandell Park | Source
Rosemary grown in Mandell Park
Rosemary grown in Mandell Park | Source
Louisiana Iris grown in Mandell Park
Louisiana Iris grown in Mandell Park | Source

Bioswale

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.”

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Sculptural Art in Mandell Park Art in Mandell Park Tiny Exchange Library in Mandell Park
Sculptural Art in Mandell Park
Sculptural Art in Mandell Park | Source
Art in Mandell Park
Art in Mandell Park | Source
Tiny Exchange Library in Mandell Park
Tiny Exchange Library in Mandell Park | Source

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.

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Hill in the park on which music occurs on WednesdaysMandell Park
Hill in the park on which music occurs on Wednesdays
Hill in the park on which music occurs on Wednesdays | Source
Mandell Park
Mandell Park | Source

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.

Questions & Answers

    © 2020 Peggy Woods

    Comments

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      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        5 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi FlourishAnyway,

        Often ideas like this start with one person and then it gradually builds.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        5 weeks ago from USA

        I sure wish my community had something like this. What a great way for nature and people to come together for the benefit of hungry people.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        7 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Liz,

        That neighborhood surrounding this park surely now have a beautiful spot in place of what had become an eyesore.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        7 weeks ago from UK

        What a lovely idea and fascinating story behind this community garden.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        8 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi FlourishAnyway,

        It is good that much of the food grown in this park helps to feed the hungry. Thanks for your comment.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        8 weeks ago from USA

        This is a beautiful garden and they are very generous for donating the food to the Food Bank.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        8 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Manatita,

        We do have extremely generous people living in the Houston area. Glad you liked this.

      • manatita44 profile image

        manatita44 

        8 weeks ago from london

        Funny last aphorism. The lushness and charm is obvious. You both have an eye for beauty and the people seem to be very generous with cash for pubic causes. Lovely!

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        8 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Bill,

        Yes, I love it also! That plot of land now serves a beautiful purpose.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

        I love it when neighbors step forward and demand a change. Hooray for Mandell Park!

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