Founded seven years ago in the Westbury area of southwest Houston, Westbury Community Garden (WCG) has become, in almost every measurable way, a model for community-initiated and community-led parks and open spaces. The Westbury Community Garden Master Plan, completed in 2016, is an effort to both take stock of this place as it exists today and provide site planning recommendations to guide the future of this highly valued community resource.
While it is customary for institutions to plan for their future, this master planning effort began from everyday needs. As long as it has been the Westbury Community Garden, this 7-acre site has suffered from regular nuisance flooding following rain events and deep rutting of the landscape at parking and regular circulation areas. The severity of these issues reached a point where action was needed. At the same time, the WCG was navigating other complex issues including the expansion of programs, resources and membership, evolving relationships with other site stakeholders including primary site partner Plant It Forward Farms, and the realization that what was once an experiment in community activism had become a community fixture. The Master Plan was thus conceptualized as a way of not only addressing the immediate needs of the physical site in regard to drainage, grading and hardscape for circulation but also the broader needs of the site and its increasingly diverse user base as it looks to expand the role of the site within the community and surrounding city. As a means of promoting the garden’s mission and ongoing work to the more people, the Master Plan is seeking the Sustainable SITES certification, the most far-reaching and rigorous certification process for landscape design projects. Once certified, this project is expected to become the first site in Houston certified under this ambitious program.
With their range of focus and specificity, the master plan recommendations are difficult to summarize in any singular way. There are however themes which cut across all site issues including a commitment to ecological education of the broader public and the diverse site programs to support this, maximum resource efficiency, biodiversity, and improved accessibility and connectivity to better link program spaces and enable the site to best fulfill its mission as a hub for the surrounding community. Throughout, the Westbury Community Garden Master Plan provides guidance to site users that strikes a unique balance between providing new ideas and features to enhance the site with preservation of the existing features that have truly formed the identity of the site as we know it today.