Parks suffer millions in damages
Jesse H. Jones Park has a rich history of providing people of all ages with hiking and biking trails, a nature center with many live animals, and a walk-through, early-1800s Texas at the Redbud Hill Homestead and Akokisa Indian Village. Unfortunately, the park, and in particular the Nature Center, was significantly affected by the recent Hurricane Harvey floods.
For many years, the Mercer Botanic Gardens have been the beautiful backdrop chosen by professional and amateur photographers alike for wedding, engagement, family and quinceañera photos. The exotic flora and fauna of the park has created a special spot to many to take a walk, a rest or just relax and enjoy the extensive collection of rare and endangered plants. Like Jones Park, floodwaters took a huge toll on the gardens.
Harris County Pct. 4 Parks Director Dennis Johnston said, “Jesse H. Jones Park and Nature Center and Mercer Botanic Gardens both received the most damage in our parks department by a long shot. The Nature Center at Jones had about 7 feet of water in it and Mercer had about 6-and-a-half feet of water in the Visitor Center. These two buildings are the heart of those parks respectively.”
The cabin, smokehouse, root cellar and workshops in the Pioneer Homestead area were the only buildings that did not take on water at Jones Park. At Mercer Gardens, only the staff building, which is 10 feet above the ground, was spared.
Jones Park reopened Saturday, Sept. 16 with the playground and picnic area and some walking trails open. Other trails will open later as they are cleared. The homestead was not affected by the flood and it will be open for Second Saturday Settlers Saturday, Oct. 14 and Pioneer Day on Saturday, Nov. 11. The Nature Center will be closed for an undetermined number of months and all of the September programs are canceled until further notice.
Mercer fared much worse. Johnston said that it will be months before Mercer is back open for business in any capacity. Mercer Director Darrin Duling said, “The park was hit hard ... The gardens are devastated, and some areas will not be recoverable to their former identity ... We are beaten but not broken, and determined to rebuild stronger and more beautiful than ever.”
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