Asakura Robinson is thrilled to have recently kicked off a master planning effort for the Westbury Community Garden and its surrounding 7-acre site in southwest Houston. The site also includes a urban farm run by Plant It Forward Farms, a prairie restoration assisted by the Native Prairies Association of Texas, a tree nursery run by Trees for Houston, and an expansive outdoor classroom for garden educators from Urban Harvest. Originally launched five years ago by Ray Sher and Becky Edmondson with the support of the Westbury Civic Club, the Garden is one of Houston’s largest and has been a mainstay in southwest Houston, attracting a diverse membership and support from across the city. With growth and popularity come an increasing need for planning and visioning. Garden President Virginia Livingston approached Asakura Robinson following our recent work to create a community-engaged public access plan for the restored prairie site at the nearby Willow Waterhole Stormwater Detention Basin. As a participant in that project, she came away impressed by what can be achieved when a community comes together to address shared goals. She felt the time was right to launch a master planning process that would build consensus around how to best solve the garden’s key challenges and leverage its many opportunities to craft a vision for the future. Other members of the garden’s Board agreed. A campaign was launched to fund the project and we are grateful for the support of Brays Oaks Management District which identified the garden as a district asset in its 2012 Open Space Master Plan, longtime garden supporter Councilmember Larry Greene, whose district includes the garden, a grant from the United Way of Houston, as well as the Garden’s own savings.
The master plan will address many of the core challenges facing the garden as it expands its membership, programs and resources. Immediate concerns such as drainage, grading, and circulation, will get additional help from our project partner EHRA engineering who will assist us in providing a site survey, concept design and construction documents for a Phase 1 project to fix longtime flooding and ground compaction problems at the garden. Other key themes of the master plan will include land use strategy, planting guidelines, community outreach and program development. The project is also seeking to become the first project in Houston to gain the SUSTAINABLE SITES certification, the most far-reaching and rigorous certification process for landscape design projects. SUSTAINABLE SITES provides a comprehensive rating system designed to distinguish sustainable landscapes, measure their performance and elevate their value over time. Needless to say, the garden is already guided by many of the same standards and principles that distinguish this certification. We are incredibly inspired by the palpable sense of community and environmental stewardship at the Garden and are very excited carry that forward through the master planning process. Please join us at our first Community Forum on June 21 which will start at the garden with volunteer-led tours at 6:00pm and move to the nearby Disciples United Methodist Church from 7:00-8:30pm for a presentation and workshop.