It has been said that “the grass is greener where you water it,” and Texas A&M is taking this proverb to heart with the construction of The Gardens at Texas A&M University, an oasis dedicated to teaching, research and social enjoyment.
What started in 1998 as an initiative by the Board of Regents to protect green space on West Campus near White Creek grew in scale in 2012 when Vice Chancellor and Dean Mark Hussey ’79 initiated a project to turn the acreage into a public garden and greenway.
A Place Made for Discovery
Aiming to expose as many people as possible to horticulture, The Gardens will be a place where K-12 students dig into hands-on gardening activities, community members buy fresh produce, and experts cultivate the minds of students in the unique outdoor classroom space.
“The Gardens at Texas A&M will provide a unique space for transformational learning experiences outside of the conventional classroom setting” said Texas A&M President Michael Young. “This project very much advances our mission of discovery, learning, and impact as we grow more ambitious in the race to make a world of difference.”
Under the supervision of Doug Welsh, Texas A&M professor emeritus and program coordinator for The Gardens, Hussey’s plans are coming to life. “Right now I live, eat and breathe this project,” Welsh said. “My job is to turn this dream garden into a reality.”
The Need for Green
Texas A&M is home to one of the largest and busiest campuses in the nation. As it grows, green space on campus disappears. Located on the corner of Discovery Drive and John Kimbrough Boulevard, The Gardens reflect an effort to preserve and enhance the university’s natural beauty.
During the next few years, the project will restore, preserve and develop nearly 27 acres into a public garden where students, faculty and visitors can relax and learn simultaneously, regardless of age or expertise.
Breaking Ground and Digging In
Visible construction of the project began in January 2015, starting with the restoration of White Creek. Funds from Texas A&M Residence Life, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Transportation Services provided $1.6 million to stabilize the creek and install two pedestrian bridges and a limited trail system. The bridges and trails across the creek and property link students from White Creek Apartments to the AgriLife Complex and the rest of campus.
“Restoring the creek with natural channel design addressed storm water management issues, but it also protected an on-campus sanctuary for more than 50 species of native and migratory birds who frequent White Creek,” said Welsh.
With that restoration complete, construction of The Gardens can continue in multiple phases.
Phase one (summer 2016 to winter 2017) includes the construction of the Leach Teaching Gardens, which include 14 themed gardens, an outdoor classroom, an event lawn, vineyard and grand arbor.
The 14 gardens will provide a place to relax and learn about agriculture.
“I imagine yellow school buses full of children eager to be exposed to the natural sciences and higher education right here at Texas A&M,” said Hussey.
The shining jewel of phase one will be an octagon-shaped pavilion for workshops, classes and other events. The 1400-square-foot open-air structure can also be closed and climate-controlled.
“This pavilion is going to be an iconic piece of architecture on Texas A&M’s campus,” Welsh said. “Just as the Albritton Tower is recognized by everyone, students and visitors alike will readily identify the pavilion and where it is located.”
Future phases will include construction of facilities and features that will serve as outdoor venues for the performing arts, films, celebrations and social events. The Grove, the original outdoor venue for such events, will be recreated at The Gardens in coming phases, as well as a children’s garden, rose garden and feed-the-world themed courtyard.
“These gardens are going to be a teaching and learning environment for all colleges and departments,” Welsh said. “Education students will learn how to teach in an outdoor setting, performing arts students will practice performing on an outdoor stage, and visual arts students will have one more place to imagine and display their work.”
Help The Gardens Grow
Once completed, The Gardens at Texas A&M University will serve as a premier teaching space for generations of Aggies, connecting them with the world around them and enhancing their spiritual health.
“This is not just a botanic garden, a zoo for plants, or a park purely for recreation,” said Welsh. “This is a teaching garden where Aggies will educate and lead the people around them to success, because that’s what Aggies do.”
In addition to investing in the lives of Aggies, The Gardens will set a standard for what is possible at Texas A&M for landscape beautification.
“Investing in The Gardens is an investment in the future of Texas A&M,” Welsh said. “This is going to be a truly remarkable place.”
Give online at give.am/TAMUGardens.
Thank you to all the generous donors of The Gardens at Texas A&M University.
By Chelsea O’Neal ’17 [via txamfoundation.com]
Texas A&M Foundation
The Texas A&M Foundation is a nonprofit organization that solicits and manages investments in academics and leadership programs to enhance Texas A&M’s capability to be among the best universities.
You can support The Gardens at Texas A&M University with a gift of an endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation. For additional information about how to benefit The Gardens, contact Mark Klemm ’81 with the Foundation at (800) 392-3310, (979) 845-9582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.