Board of Directors Regular Meeting Agenda


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Meeting Date: 07/16/2015  

SUBJECT MATTER:
Receive, consider and act upon plans for a Conservation Garden;
FISCAL IMPACT:
$100,000 is allocated in the 2015 Capital Improvement budget to develop a conservation garden. To date, no dollars have been spent on this project, however significant time has been expended reviewing community needs related to the conservation garden along with other types of gardens including: donation, children’s and community gardens. Maintenance cost for these gardens are minimal as the base maintenance for the facility is done by the gardeners. In addition, staff has been in contact with Interfaith/Veggie Village and various Master Gardner groups to serve as volunteer stewards for these facilities.

Capital costs would not exceed $100,000 for this project. Items that need to be procured include but are not limited to: fencing, garden plot bocks, irrigation system expansion, shed, educational signs, garden soil, landscape materials, etc.
BACKGROUND:
A 2015 Budget Initiative approved and funded at $100,000 is to develop a conservation garden.  The purpose of the conservation garden is promote sustainable landscape practices by residents of The Woodlands Township, due in part to the awareness of the public of the limited water capacity and the continued growth in the community. The conservation garden through active and passive education would teach homeowners and commercial entities best practices in making water wise decisions along with a vibrant landscape. Proposed locations, at that time, were in Bear Branch Park or possibly at the new sportsfield complex off of Gosling Road.

The Township currently has a small conservation garden used as a living example of how homeowners can plant to save water.
This garden is at the Township's Parks, Recreation and Environmental Services campus on Millennium Forest Dr.  The garden has been developed over many years and is highlighted during the annual Landscape Solutions event held at the campus. It is also a certified wildlife habitat.   However, as the site is located behind the facility's fence and security gates, it is only accessible during special events and normal business hours. 

As staff reviewed potential locations and aspects of development of a conservation garden, with input from residents, master gardeners and Woodlands Joint Powers Agency, it was determined that the conservation garden and another community garden could be developed together on the same site for synergy, efficiency and economies of scale. The expansion of the community garden system was identified as a need in the 2011 Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment. The Township currently offers two community gardens- one at Bear Branch Sports Field and another at Alden Bridge Sports Park which provides community members with space to grow fresh, nutritious vegetables and herbs in a healthy, sunny, safe and convenient environment. The Alden Bridge Sports Park Garden is a cooperative partnership effort as it is also home to Veggie Village, a program of Interfaith, where harvested vegetables are donated to a local food bank. These gardens contain a total of 120 plots and regularly have a waiting list.

Communities around the country are developing and expanding programs for gardening which can take a variety of forms. Currently, in The Woodlands are programs sponsored by Environmental Services in place which lend themselves to community gardening, e.g. compost classes, master gardener involvement in the community, classes on vegetable gardening presented by horticulturists and authors who are experts in their fields. Woodlands Landscaping Solutions and the Compost Fair are two other well attended events. In addition, Environmental Services receives many requests from residents to expand these informational programs to other garden-related areas, e.g. canning and preservation of vegetables and fruit, floral gardening and native plant gardening.  Interfaith has expressed a willingness to contribute their staff resources to coordinating another Veggie Village which could be operated in conjunction with the Harris County Extension Agent and their Master Gardener program. These are all related to landscaping with native plants and water conservation and combining the sites provides the opportunity for those active in vegetable gardening to learn from the conservation garden, and those visiting the conservation garden would learn about vegetable gardening.  Staffing for educational programs, signage and infrastructure can be reduced and/or maximized. 

In addition to the conservation garden and community garden, there is great interest in developing another Children's Garden similar to the one at Alden Bridge Sports Park.   The goal of the children’s garden is to teach younger members of the community healthy eating habits while they experience firsthand the growing of fruits and vegetables.   The current garden is actively used by children in private and CISD schools.  There may be sponsorship/ benefactor opportunities related to the development of the Children's Garden.   

Staff with the assistance of several Master Gardeners reviewed potential Township locations for suitable locations. The following measures were reviewed to identify a location for a garden including but not limited to: space, sun light, obstructions, drainage, parking and irrigation. The location that best met the criteria established appears to be Wendtwoods Park and this location would afford access to residents in the southern portion of the community.

Wendtwoods Park is a village park located in the Village of Creekside Park, west of Kuykendahl. The park has a swimming pool, basketball court, tennis courts, a playground, and multipurpose fields. The Park is located adjacent to a Tomball Independent School District site for a middle school which would assist with the educational nature of the garden. Four options have been developed which use the area to the east of the existing multipurpose parking lot at Wendtwoods Park (Attachment A).

As the goal with a conservation garden is for the public to have access to it and for it to be an educational resources, the conservation garden would not be fenced and would use the areas that would be adjacent to the internal pathway system and a small plot. Interpretative signage would be placed, demonstration areas would be developed and specific low water species would be identified to aid in the goal of being an educational area. A conceptual location plan for the Conservation Garden at Wendtwoods Park as been sketched (Attachment B). 

Upon approval to move forward at this location and the concept of a combining the aspects of a conservation garden, a community vegetable garden, a Children's Garden and potentially another Veggie Village, the conceptual  plans would be refined and finalized in consultation with the Master Gardeners, Interfaith and other interested groups. The goal would to complete the project by the end of the year.
RECOMMENDATION:
Approve the development of a garden that would incorporate elements of a community, children’s and conservation garden at Wendtwoods Park within the budgeted $100,000 allocated in the 2015 Capital Improvement Budget.
Attachments
Attachment A - Community Garden Concept Plan
Attachment B - Conservation Garden Location Concept Map


    

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