Greenway project underway at university
September 7, 2014
By Charlie Neumeyer/Victoria County Master Gardener
Edited by Charla Borchers Leon/Victoria County Master Gardener
PHOTO BY ROBB KENDRICK
Editor's note: This is Part I of a two-part series on the planned gardens and Greenway project at Texas A&M University. Look for detailed information on the four phases including a map in next week's column.
Texas A&M University is known worldwide for its agricultural and horticultural programs, so one would expect to find extensive garden and agricultural demonstration areas on the campus. Unfortunately, this currently is not the case.
However, a major project dubbed The Texas A&M Gardens Greenway Project is in the initial stages of development. Just imagine the Master Gardener Victoria Educational Gardens (located at Victoria Regional Airport) on steroids.
45-acre tract on west side of campus
According to Dr. Doug Welsh, the project coordinator, "a team of faculty, staff and students dreamed up" a master plan that encompasses a 45-acre tract on the west side of the campus. The area extends from the Horticulture and Forest Sciences building to John Kimbrough Boulevard and ends near the Bush Library. This area includes White Creek, which will become one of the many focus areas in the gardens.
The site was selected and designated as The Texas A&M Gardens and Greenway Project in 1998 by the Board of Regents. The summer 2013 edition of "Spirit and Mind," a Texas A&M Foundation publication, indicates in 2012, Mark Hussy, vice chancellor and dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences "openly committed to creating a public garden and nature preserve" in the designated area.
In a WTAW radio station interview April 16, Welsh talked about the funding for this project. He stated that Texas A&M University budgeted $1.5 million that will be used to help fund the White Creek restoration and the storm water management system.
The projected budget for the gardens is $60 million total. Thirty-million dollars will be used to actually construct the various gardens and demonstration sites. But, as Welsh noted, it is relatively easy to build the gardens.
The downfall of many public and private gardens comes from "the long-term maintenance that will kill you over time." To combat this problem, an additional $30 million will be used to establish an endowment fund. Funds will be raised "dollar for dollar," one for construction and one for endowment.
In addition to providing for maintenance and upkeep, these funds will be used to hire a permanent director for the project. The idea is that the gardens will be self-sustaining.
Welsh notes that "the open-access Gardens and Greenway will not be supported by attendance revenue." All necessary funds over and above the initial seed money provided by the university system will be generated from private donors and from foundations that support these types of programs. The funding will also be used to restore the White Creek area and to manage runoff and flooding issues associated with the creek.
Garden concept development
Professor Jon Rodiek, coordinator of Texas A&M's landscape architecture and urban planning program - and his graduate students - created the comprehensive master plan.
The master plan includes four phases for the gardens and has a flexible timeline for implementation related to the funding available.
One of the primary uses of the gardens is that it will be a teaching center. The planning of the project itself became a teachable moment as the graduate students "honed skills in comprehensive master planning, design and environmental surveying."
The "Spirit and Mind" article said that the committee received input from the "campus community, students, faculty, staff, landscape architecture and horticulture experts."
Welsh, in a Dec. 27, 2013, AgriLife press release, said, "It (the garden project) could have ranged anywhere from a true botanic garden, which is a zoo for plants, all the way to an open place or straight park just for recreation. We boiled it down to our core functions, and No. 1 is teaching. It has to be an outdoor laboratory."
In an interview with radio station WTAW, Welsh talked at length about the gardens and the university's plan for development. He indicated that the gardens will be built in four phases and gave details about each phase. He also stated that the implementation of each phase depends on funding both for construction and maintenance. All four phases will offer opportunities for teaching and learning.
The Texas A&M Gardens and Greenway Project website at AgriLife.org lists four core functions for the project. They are:
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or email@example.com, or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.
"It gives an off-campus, on-campus experience where we can get out of our dorms and offices and go enjoy something that's right here on Texas A&M's campus. You don't have to get in your car and go anywhere. You can do it right here on campus."
Source: Dr. Doug Welsh, Professor Emeritus and
Program Coordinator - Texas A&M Gardens and Greenway
• Outdoor classroom for students
• Green space for "spontaneous recreation" (includes recreation of The Grove, former main campus open-air theater used for yell practices/movies)
• Backyard of TAMU
• A central park for Aggies
• Located along White Creek near Reed Arena; next to 4,000-bed dorm
• Eventually connected by trail to George Bush Presidential Library
Source: Allen Reed/The Eagle, Dec. 1, 2013