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Renovated Mandell Park opens with a ribbon cutting and reception

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Hundreds gathered to celebrate the opening of the renovated Mandell Park on Aug 21 2014 at the corner of Richmond and Mandell Streets
Hundreds gathered to celebrate the opening of the renovated Mandell Park on Aug 21 2014 at the corner of Richmond and Mandell Streets
Marc Pembroke
Council Member Cohen, Skip Almoney, Mayor Parker, Karen Ann Vinson
photo by Marc Pembroke

On Thursday, August 21, the Friends of Mandell Park outgoing president Stanley (Skip Almoney), incoming President Karen Anne Vinson, joined by Mayor Parker, Houston Parks and Recreation Director Joe Turner, Council Members Cohen, Cristie, and Robinson, and hundreds of current and former neighbors gathered under tents and wall seats while a violin duet played for a ribbon cutting ceremony to commemorate the renovated park.

Mayor Parker summarized the history of the project. Skip Almoney introduced Marianne Jones reviewed fund raising effort and thanked major donors. Mandell Park is on a 1.2 acre lot that has been vacant for more than 20 years. In 1982, it was acquired for a branch library site and demolished residential and commercial buildings, leaving the space vacant. But the Houston Public Library chose to establish a site on the Campanile space on Montrose Ave, the curent neighborhood Library. The site on the corner of Richmond and Kendall, became a dumping site, abandoned and overgrown. but at least one neighbor, Meredith Burke, who lived in a home at the corner of Bonnie Brae and Mandell, the southern boundary of the lot, believed it would make an excellent location for a community garden, and more particularly an organic garden. Ms. Burke has since moved from Houston, and the home she lived in has been demolished, leaving her lot vacant, but for many years she worked to develop the community garden. “Meredith Garden” marked with an iron open gateway, is named in her honor. In 2003, the site was transferred to the Parks and Recreation Department for development as a Park, but with no formal design or dedicated budget.

Nevertheless, the park continued as a quaint but popular community flower and vegetable garden, benefiting from volunteer support from dozens of neighbors. Gradually, with the support and constant advocacy of local leaders notably including Skip Almoney, the plans began to take shape. Parks and Recreation Director Joe Turner showed a pile of dozens of email printouts from Almoney dating from as far back as 2004 urging progress and funding for the project. Marianne Jones recognized some of the major donors began to adopt the project, and they raised over $1 million to fund a design that would would encourage ample creative gardening and potentially become a destination point for visitors to the area.

All the speakers in the program agreed that the newly opened site far exceed the initial expectations of the first supporters. It includes sprawling lawns, walled flower beds that can serve as seating areas, and walkways. The long-term visionaries of the project are to be congratulated.