WaterSmart Park can school gardeners on eco-friendly measures
The neighboring houses surrounding the Ghirardi Family WaterSmart Park, 1810 Louisiana Ave. in League City, have quite the view these days. Neighbors to the park are able to enjoy its beauty and amenities and educate themselves on how to be more conservation-minded when it comes to dealing with their own backyards.
Signage explains the many eco-friendly aspects that went into the design of the park, which was dedicated to the city in March last year.
The 3.75-acre park was named for the Ghirardi family, early settlers of League City, who donated a three-quarter acre parcel of land. The Ghirardi Compton Oak, which was transplanted on the property in 2012, adds to the family’s legacy.
The tree-filled park includes 68 oaks, most prominently the Moonshine oak, which is centralized on the park trail and serves as the backdrop for the outdoor classroom.
“When this oak was first discovered, it had remnants of an old moonshine still,” Rusty Bolen, park operations superintendent, said.
“Most of the trees here were fighting for canopy space and the Moonshine oak was struggling,” he said. “We removed a lot of invasive species, but kept things like hackberry trees, because they are a food source for birds. We also removed some of the smaller brush, but we are letting the original underbrush come back — like yaupon and privet.”
The park includes two cisterns for rainwater harvesting, pathways of decomposed granite, foot bridges and a play and picnic area. Beehive grates keep leaves and larger debris from going into the storm drain. All picnic tables are made from recycled plastic.
Three distinctive types of gardens are evident: WaterSmart; Rain Gardens and Swales; and Green Roof. The WaterSmart gardens feature native and adapted plants to conserve water, improve water quality and provide habitat for local wildlife. After the gardens are established, they require less water. Just a few of the plants include butterfly weed, plumbago, Texas lantana, black-eyed Susan and knockout roses.
Rain Gardens are bowl-shaped beds containing native plants. They’re unique in that they collect, absorb and filter runoff rainwater. Swales slope to a desired destination, directing water from one location to another. Plants requiring wetter conditions are in the center of the garden, while plants that need dryer soil are on the edges. Pollutants are filtered out, and because the water only stands for about a day, mosquitoes don’t have a chance to breed. Dwarf canna, swamp sunflower, Louisiana iris and rain lilies thrive in this location.
The Green Roof is an actual structure with living plants that can handle the microclimate atop a roof. Among them: Rocky Point ice plant, Texas frogfruit, Chinese stonecrop and pink evening primrose.
As for weed control, pulling them by hand works best for the beds, Bolen said.
“We refrain from chemical use as much as possible and only use organic fertilizers and insect deterrent products where possible,” he said.
Homeowners can learn a lot about the care of their own beautiful backyards from the principles that were used to design this amazing park.
“Our hope is that this park will impact gardeners and encourage them to adopt the principles we are using here,” Bolen said.
The award-winning Ghirardi Family WaterSmart Park was a collaborative effort of the city of League City, Texas SeaGrant, Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, Galveston Bay Estuary Program and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Landscape Art of League City constructed the park.