Saturday was the dedication of the League City Ghirardi WaterSmart Park.
On Louisiana Street across from Poppy Street, the Ghirardi WaterSmart Park is a collaborative effort of the city of League City, Texas Sea Grant, Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, Galveston Bay Estuary Program and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, along with citizen effort.
The 3.75-acre space was funded through the city’s Park Dedication Fund and a grant through the Commission on Environmental Quality.
The park features a pavilion with a green roof, walking trails and a playground. Intended as a teaching park, it has special conservation and educational features including many rain gardens, an outdoor classroom, a cistern to collect rainwater for irrigation, native planting displays, picnic area and, of course, some very old oak trees like the Moonshine Oak as well as the 100-year-old Ghirardi Compton Oak, moved to the site in 2012 from the FM 518 corner.
Clarence Ghirardi donated three-quarters of an acre to the city to serve as the “new home” of the oak.
Now this ecological teaching marvel of a city park combines the old with the new as well as an educational example of the benefits of living green. But much like the making of sausage, the end product is far more pleasant than the process it took to get there.
In a discussion with Councilwoman Joanna Dawson, the City Council liaison to the Parks Board and a member of the Parks Board during the developmental stages of the park, about the process involved in the creation of this park, she said: “In 2003, the developer of the subdivision donated this land to the city in exchange for owed park dedication fees.”
In 2009, the city sent out a parks survey asking citizens to prioritize future projects. The WaterSmart Park was one of the top six. The survey gave the council the guidance and support to begin the process of developing the park, but no funding.
Parks staff had been looking for a project to work in tandem with the Texas A&M WaterSmart program, so it sought the program’s help. Texas A&M Agrilife Extension was able to find and apply for a grant for the park, and on Feb. 22, 2011, the City Council approved accepting a $665,036 Clean Water Act section 319(h) grant from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality through the nonpoint source program.
The park will educate the public on water conservation and be part of a program designed to incorporate water conservation measures on future commercial and residential sites in League City.
The federal 319(h) grant will help conduct research on stormwater quality and water conservation techniques to develop codes for use with new development and redevelopment. Hurricane Ike came along just at the right time, to help council approve the project.
This is just the first half of a story that will tell the tale of how cooperation between federal, state, local agencies and residents created a place where you can learn about our environment as well as learn the history of Moonshine Oak.