Tag Archive for: Mercer

Construction Begins on Mercer Stormwater Detention Basin

Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) has begun construction of a 512 acre-foot stormwater detention basin upstream from Lake Houston on Cypress Creek near Mercer Arboretum. HCFCD hopes to complete the project in 2024.

The Mercer Project is located on the northeast corner of Hardy Tollroad and FM1960. It stretches north to Cypress Creek. A residential neighborhood borders it on the east.

Clearing the wooded site in Commissioner Rodney Ellis’ Precinct 1 began in January and continues. Meanwhile, it appears that excavation has begun in the portion of the site closest to Cypress Creek.

The projects includes two connected basins. Construction of the north basin appears further along than the south basin.

Mercer Stormwater Detention Basin

Photos of Construction Progress

I took the photos above on Sunday afternoon, 2/25/24. Surprisingly, contractors were hard at work.

Looking NW from over FM1960 toward Cypress Creek and Hardy Tollroad. North Basin will be on right. Start of South Basin is on left. Lower right area contains wetlands.
Mercer Stormwater Detention Basin
Reverse angle looking S toward downtown Houston on horizon. Cypress Creek in foreground. Wooded area on left is designated for floodplain preservation.
Closer shot shows beginning of excavation of north pond.
Contractor is burning downed trees. I did not notice any piles of mulch.
Looking N at more new clearing for South Basin.

Details and Funding for Mercer Project

Both basins will have dry bottoms. An underground equalizer pipe will balance the water level in the two basins, while avoiding the majority of jurisdictional wetlands and streams on the property.

A 54″ outfall pipe will move water back into the creek from the basins after a storm at a rate consistent with pre-construction runoff. A 30-foot-wide berm will accommodate maintenance and future recreational activities such as hike and bike trails.

This project is listed in the 2018 Bond Program as F-88. HCFCD estimated the cost at the time at $25 million, which included land acquisition, design and construction. Construction alone costs $14.8 million.

Funding comes both from the bond and a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery program.

Benefits

The Mercer Project will lower the water surface elevation in the area shown below during a 100-year flood by .35 feet.

Mercer Project location and benefit limit per HCFCD.

The Mercer project will remove the 100-year area of inundation from 30 structures and the 500-year area from another 17 structures. The homes benefitted extend from the Hardy downstream approximately to Cypresswood Drive.

Impact on Lake Houston Area

I applaud this project because every little bit counts. But three to four inches of flood-level reduction along Cypress Creek will have a much larger impact along Cypress Creek than in the Humble/Kingwood area. Here’s why.

Cypress Creek is just one of 11 watersheds that feed into Lake Houston. Cypress joins Spring Creek just upstream from the US59 bridge over the West Fork. In a 100-year storm evenly distributed across the region, the total runoff volume for each watershed upstream of Lake Houston is almost 2 million acre feet.

This project provides a hair more than 500 acre feet. So, by itself, it will retain only 0.025% of the water running off upstream of Lake Houston.

However, the Mercer Basin will retain 0.27% of the runoff in the Cypress Creek watershed. See table below provided by the SJRA.

Acre-feet of runoff from watersheds upstream of Lake Houston, assuming a 100-year rain uniformly distributed across the region.

A regional drainage study for the Cypress Creek watershed found that flooding along tributaries is predominately caused by stormwater from a rising Cypress Creek backing up into the tributaries. It’s not a lack of sufficient stormwater conveyance or drainage capacity on the tributaries themselves. HCFCD believes stormwater detention basins could reduce that backwater issue.

HCFCD’s Ultimate Recommendation for Cypress Creek

The regional drainage study described here recommends nearly 25,000 acre-feet of additional stormwater detention in the watershed – 50X more than this project provides. It’s unclear where all that land will come from in a watershed that’s already highly developed.

And that dramatizes the need to preserve land along creeks and bayous before it gets developed. That will be a far more cost-effective strategy in the long run.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/25/24

2371 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Precinct 4 Transforming Mercer to Increase Flood Resilience

New amenities – including a grand entryway, boardwalks, and water features – will transform Mercer Botanic Gardens over the next decade as part of a plan to expand the gardens and make them more flood resilient.

Mercer approved its master plan, designed by Halff Associates Inc., in 2019, after buying more than 47 neighboring acres outside the special flood hazard area.

Mercer’s New Master Plan designed for Harris County Precinct 4 by Halff Associates.

Phase 1 of Transformation Already Underway

Phase 1 of the plan began March 8 and will take six months to complete. Improvements include building three greenhouses on higher ground to replace the Central Garden greenhouses. The extra elevation is expected to keep nursery plants safe from high water and provide a staging area for staff and equipment during disasters like Hurricane Harvey, which caused catastrophic damage at the botanic gardens.

“We decided we couldn’t just rebuild, because we would always be in harm’s way,” said Chris Ludwig, Mercer’s director. “The best option was to move our greenhouses to higher ground and make the facilities that couldn’t be moved more flood resilient.”

New and Improved Amenities on More Acreage

Before building the greenhouses, crews will excavate part of the property to create a detention area, using the excess soil to raise the property above Hurricane Harvey’s flood line. Plans also include demolishing the Central Garden greenhouses and using the space as an open lawn area for events and family-friendly outdoor movies.

Storey Lake and the Creekside Ramble were closed in 2016 after sustaining significant flood damage. But both have re-opened and will eventually link to other planned amenities.

Most development will occur over the next decade on a 47.44-acre plot adjacent to Mercer. Amenities include:

  • Three greenhouses
  • Water features
  • Trails
  • Observation greenhouse for exotic plants
  • Water wall
  • Amphitheater.

A boardwalk will span the pond, leading visitors past a Japanese Garden to a ziggurat – a tall earthen tower resembling the structure at McGovern Centennial Gardens, near the Houston Zoo. A twisting pathway will lead to the top of the tower so visitors can view Mercer from above. The boardwalk will also provide a shortcut to Storey Lake and a new rookery and water feature.

Baldwin Boettcher Library, which has been closed since Hurricane Harvey, will reopen as Mercer’s entrance. Additionally, Precinct 4 will restore Mercer’s Botanical Information Center, also damaged during Harvey, and open it to Baldwin Boettcher staff for library programs and classes.

Mercer’s west side, which remains mostly undeveloped, may also see a few improvements and new amenities over the years, including a Reflective Garden, Tree Village, and Maple Mall. A restroom and garden space is expected to open at the front of the westside parking area in fall 2021. Property also has been set aside on both sides of Mercer for connections to the Cypress Creek Greenway.

Inspire Your Family to Love Nature

Mercer is located in Humble at 22306 Aldine Westfield Road at Cypress Creek. That’s a little more than a mile north of FM1960. If you want to inspire your family to love nature, this is a great place to visit. And so convenient!

Click to view the master plan in a high resolution PDF format.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/2/2021 based on a press release and presentation by Harris County Precinct 4

1403 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Mercer Cancels Holiday in the Gardens Because of Expected Severe Weather

Just received word from Harris County Precinct #4 that Mercer Botanic Gardens and the Mercer Society (TMS) have cancelled Holiday in the Gardens this Saturday. Reason: expected severe weather including flooding and possible tornadoes.

The event had been scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 8 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 22306 Aldine Westfield Road in Humble, 77338.

Holiday in the Gardens has been cancelled this year due to expected flooding and severe weather.

Storms forecast to hit the area Friday, Dec. 7, into early Saturday morning could dump as much as 8-10 inches of rain. Jeff Lindner, Harris County meteorologist expects the US59 corridor to be the focus of some of the most intense. He predicts flooding along Cypress Creek which borders the Mercer Botanic Gardens.

Stay tuned for details regarding additional events planned in 2019.

TMS, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, partners with Mercer Botanic Gardens to provide support for ongoing flood recovery efforts, programming, as well as improvements and expansions at Mercer Botanic Gardens. For more information about TMS or to make a donation, visit themercersociety.org.

Since 1974, Mercer has grown to more than 300 acres with more than 20 acres of beautifully maintained gardens in addition to an extensive walking trail system, ponds, ongoing educational and recreational programs, and more. For more information, visit www.hcp4.net/mercer.

Once again, Holiday in the Gardens has been cancelled this year due to expected severe weather.

Posted by Bob Rehak on December 6, 2018

464 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Holiday in the Gardens at Mercer Next Week

This is a little off topic. However, the post about Mercer Botanic Gardens generated so much interest that I thought I would follow it up with some good news for all those people still struggling to rebuild their homes after Harvey. Here’s an event at Mercer that the whole family can enjoy. It will help you take your mind off flooding for a day.

 

Holiday in the Gardens and Winter Plant Sale at Mercer

Celebrate the holiday season with music, food, crafts, shopping, and more during Holiday in the Gardens Saturday, Dec. 8 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Mercer Botanic Gardens.

This family-oriented event offers a holiday market, winter plant sale, and a Children’s Corner. Attractions include face painting, a visit from Santa, and holiday-themed crafts. Entrance is free, and children’s activities are available while supplies last. Food, drinks, and holiday gifts are available for purchase.

Volunteers Needed

Volunteers are needed for Holiday in the Gardens! Anyone who would like to volunteer or has questions can contact Mercer’s Volunteer Coordinator Jamie Hartwell at jhartwell@hcp4.net. New volunteers must complete a volunteer application, available at www.hcp4.net/mercer/volunteering.

Location

Mercer Botanic Gardens is a Harris County Precinct 4 Parks facility located one mile north of FM 1960 at 22306 Aldine Westfield Road in Humble, 77338. Heartfelt thanks go to Commissioner R. Jack Cagle for continuing to believe in this facility and sponsor events like Holiday in the Gardens.

Open to All

Harris County Precinct 4 programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, sex, religion, national origin, or physical ability. Anyone seeking additional information or requiring special assistance to participate in any program should contact Mercer at 713-274-4160 or online at www.hcp4.net/community/parks/mercer.

By Crystal Simmons, Harris County Precinct 4

Posted by Bob Rehak with some editorial comments on 11/30/2018

458 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Mercer Botanic Gardens After Harvey: Still One of the Gems of Harris County

Mercer Botanic Gardens has always been a work in progress…perhaps a little more so since Hurricane Harvey. The Harris County Precinct 4 Park – known for its ever-changing natural color, idyllic walkways, and dazzling displays of native plants – took it on the chin during Harvey. The flood devastated plantings and caused some of the worst damage in Mercer’s history. Floodwaters up to eight feet high ravaged paths, buildings, and gardens. They downed trees, ripped beds out by the roots, and buried  everything under layers of  mud.

Downed Tree after Harvey

Flooded Meeting Room

Ruined Beds

Back, Bigger, Better

The Botanic Gardens – a favorite of gardeners, seniors, and parents with small children– offers a civilized version of nature, relaxing strolls while holding hands, quiet contemplation, a place to learn, and a place to forget about all the stresses of modern life.

Now, under the leadership of Jack Cagle, Harris County Precinct 4 commissioner, it’s becoming that again…with some major improvements that will help it better survive future floods. The county and volunteers have spent much of the last year rebuilding, replanting, restoring, and even relocating parts of the facility.

Changes

Plans to relocate parts of the gardens began after the Tax Day Flood damaged areas of Mercer closest to Cypress Creek. The devastation highlighted the need for additional acreage on higher ground. Soon after, The Mercer Society, the nonprofit providing philanthropic support to Mercer, launched the Rebuild Mercer Campaign with a goal of purchasing 34 additional acres. Much of that land had already been purchased when Harvey hit, necessitating even more changes.

By Christmas last year, the Mercer Society (TMS) relocated their Gift and Plant Shoppe to 400 Main Street in Old Town Spring. Filled with botanic treasures, holiday gifts, and an assortment of plants, The Gift Shoppe is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

By March of this year, the Gardens had officially reopened.

In September, more than 100 veterans with The Mission Continues and 17 CarMax employees volunteered to install sod and prepare raised beds throughout the Creekside Ramble and parts of Storey Lake.

Volunteers sod Creekside Ramble

Part of Mercer’s new west side.

Construction of a new library will begin in 2019. And 4.5 acres of additional gardens could be open by Spring.

Cypress swamp on Mercer’s new west side

Where to Find Mercer

Located at 22306 Aldine Westfield Road, just a few blocks north of the airport and 1960, the Botanic Gardens are a 15 to 20 minute drive from Humble and Kingwood.

You and your family may find some of these upcoming events interesting.

Mercer Winter-Spring 2019 Programs

January

Children’s Winter Camp. Wednesday, Jan. 2 through Friday, Jan. 4 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Children can kick off the new year with lessons in healthy cooking at Mercer’s Winter Camp. Following the Learn! Grow! Eat! & Go! Junior Master Gardener curriculum, children will use the Charlie Cart Project mobile kitchen to practice cooking techniques encouraging healthy eating. Children will also plant vegetables, taste fresh produce, and engage in fun, outdoor physical activities. Space is limited, and registration is required. $30 per child. Registration starts Monday, November 19. To register or to receive additional information, call Mercer Botanic Gardens at 713-274-4160.

Lunch Bunch: Palm Textures. Wednesday, Jan. 9 from noon to 2 p.m. Palms add texture to the landscape and make any garden feel like a tropical paradise. Cheyenne Griffin, Mercer Botanic Gardens horticulturist, will discuss these textures and how to protect palms from the cold. Participants should bring a lunch and dress for the weather. Lunch Bunch is a free program offered at Mercer’s East Side Gardens and is recommended for participants ages 12 and older. To register or to receive additional information, contact Mercer Botanic Gardens at 713-274-4160 or mercerbotanicgardens@hcp4.net.

February

Lunch Bunch: The Basics of Backyard and Small-Scale Composting. Wednesday, Feb. 13 from noon to 2 p.m. Experienced horticulturists and gardeners often tout compost as the black gold of the gardening world because of the wonders it can perform in the garden. John Ferguson, owner of Nature’s Way Resources, demonstrates how to produce compost for small and large properties, from the backyard to golf courses. All materials, including tools and equipment, is provided by Mercer. Participants should bring a lunch and dress for the weather. Lunch Bunch is a free program offered at Mercer’s East Side Gardens and is recommended for participants ages 12 and older. To register or to receive additional information, contact Mercer Botanic Gardens at 713-274-4160 or mercerbotanicgardens@hcp4.net.

March

Children’s Spring Camp. Monday, March 11 through Thursday, March 14 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Spring is a time for newness and change. During Mercer’s Spring Camp, children will explore and embrace foods and cooking techniques that encourage healthy eating habits. Mercer’s education staff will utilize the Learn! Grow! Eat! & Go! Junior Master Gardener curriculum and the Charlie Cart mobile kitchen during this unique children’s camp. Camp includes planting vegetables, tasting fresh produce, and engaging in fun, outdoor physical activities. Space is limited, and registration is required. $40 per child. Registration starts Monday, January 28. To register or to receive additional information, call Mercer Botanic Gardens at 713-274-4160.

March Mart Plant Sale. Friday, March 15 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday, March 16 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Shop a variety of hard-to-find plants during one of the Texas Gulf Coast region’s largest and most anticipated horticultural events beginning Friday, March 15 at 10 a.m., with early shopping for The Mercer Society Members (TMS) at 8 a.m. An invitation only reception and plant sale for TMS Supporting Members and higher begins Thursday, March 14 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. All-day express checkout is available for The Mercer Society members only. To receive additional information or to purchase your membership, call Mercer Botanic Gardens at 713-274-4160.

March Mart Training. Individual and group training will be conducted on an as needed basis. All volunteers are welcome to contact the Mercer volunteer coordinator at 713-274-4160 or mercerbotanicgardens@hcp4.net for any questions and additional information regarding March Mart assignments or shifts.

Lunch Bunch: Honeybees and Backyard Beekeeping. Wednesday, March 20 from noon to 2 p.m. Join Jerry Maxwell and Roger Nelson, members of the Montgomery County Beekeepers Association, as they discuss interesting facts and details about honeybees, the amazing role bees play in our environment, and the benefits of pure honey. Learn what it takes to start your own beekeeping adventure in your own backyard. Participants should bring a lunch and dress for the weather. Lunch Bunch is a free program offered at Mercer’s East Side Gardens and is recommended for participants ages 12 and older. To register or to receive additional information, contact Mercer Botanic Gardens at 713-274-4160 or mercerbotanicgardens@hcp4.net.

April

Lunch Bunch: The Incredible Edibles. Wednesday, April 10 from noon to 2 p.m. Join a casual conversation with Marilyn O’Connor, the Herb Lady, and discuss ways to incorporate herbs into your garden year-round. Enjoy hands-on, scratch-and-sniff fun while exploring the textures and fragrances of various herbs. Then, stroll the Herb Garden at Mercer for more inspiration! Participants should bring a lunch and dress for the weather. Lunch Bunch is a free program offered at Mercer’s East Side Gardens and is recommended for participants ages 12 and older. To register or to receive additional information, contact Mercer Botanic Gardens at 713-274-4160 or mercerbotanicgardens@hcp4.net.

Ongoing Events

North Side Greenhouse Team. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Join a plant committee and grow plants year-round for events and sales or help with various projects from construction to irrigation! Contact Mercer’s volunteer coordinator at 713-274-4160 or mercerbotanicgardens@hcp4.net.

Gardening. Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Seek out what’s blooming and learn about plant grooming, pruning, and weeding in the Pollinator and Conservation gardens. Wear closed-toe shoes, gloves, and hat, and bring sunscreen and water. Contact Mercer’s volunteer coordinator at 713-274-4160 or mercerbotanicgardens@hcp4.net.

Gardening. Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Take part in plant grooming, pruning, weeding, and mulching in the Prehistoric and Shade gardens. Wear closed-toe shoes, gloves, and hat, and bring sunscreen and water. Contact Mercer’s volunteer coordinator at 713-274-4160 or mercerbotanicgardens@hcp4.net.

Cooking Thyme. Select Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Explore fresh food with all five senses during the Cooking Thyme program at Mercer Botanic Gardens. Children will learn the connections between cooking and the plants that grow in the garden and on the farm. This free, hands-on opportunity allows children to prepare and taste foods and equips them with knowledge to make healthy food choices. Cooking Thyme classes for children in kindergarten through second grade are scheduled Feb. 6, March 6, and April 3. Classes for children in third grade through fifth grade are scheduled Jan. 16, Feb. 20, March 20, and April 17. Registration is required, and space is limited. To register or for more information, call Mercer Botanic Gardens at 713-274-4160.

Lunch Bunch. Second Wednesday of the month from noon to 2 p.m. Join fabulous speakers at these free presentations covering diverse topics. Participants should bring a lunch and dress for the weather. Lunch Bunch is a free program offered at Mercer’s East Side Gardens and is recommended for participants ages 12 and older. For more information, contact Mercer Botanic Gardens at 713-274-4160 or mercerbotanicgardens@hcp4.net.

Storytime in the Gardens. Every Monday at 10:30 a.m. In partnership with Harris County Public Library, Mercer presents a unique Storytime in the natural setting of Mercer for parents and children to enjoy together. Storytime garden locations may vary each week. Call 713-274-4160 to find out the location or to check for cancellations due to weather or holidays.

Mercer serves people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, sex, religion, national origin, or physical ability. Anyone seeking additional information or requiring special assistance to participate in any program should contact Mercer at 713-274-4160 or mercerbotanicgardens@hcp4.net. Visit Mercer online at www.hcp4.net/Community/Parks/Mercer.

Posted by Bob Rehak with help from Crystal Simmons

Photos Courtesy of Harris County Precinct 4

Beauty Courtesy of the Creator

455 Days since Hurricane Harvey