When the Tax Day flood hit the Houston area in April 2016, Mercer’s Creekside Ramble hadn’t even celebrated its grand opening.
Without a barrier, floodwaters from Cypress Creek hit the area at full force, burying the garden, including Mercer’s collection of azaleas and rare Japanese maples, under several feet of silt. Before the garden could be restored, Hurricane Harvey hit, resulting in a six-month closure for Mercer.
Since then, Mercer staff members have worked to restore the garden – all while developing plans to ensure Mercer withstands the next flood.
“The Creekside Ramble is a key connecting point between our Formal Gardens and Storey Lake,” said Chris Ludwig, Mercer interim director. “Because of the area’s vulnerable location near the creek, our plan is to make the area more resilient to flooding with landscaping and paths that are less expensive to replace along with infrastructure improvements to slow floodwaters.”
While progress has been slow, Mercer finally received the help it needed in September from an army of volunteers with a history of making a difference: The Mission Continues.
More than 100 military veterans from across the United States and 17 CarMax employees spent the day installing sod and preparing raised beds throughout the Creekside Ramble. Ian Haynes, who oversees two platoons in Columbus, Ohio, was one of the many who volunteered.
“This was a fantastic opportunity to bring so many vets together to make an impact for Mercer,” said Haynes. “We were able to begin the transformation of the Creekside Ramble and Storey Lake. I can’t wait to see the results.”
Today, the Creekside Ramble is a much different site. Instead of sand and buried plants, the area features simple landscaping with grass, gravel paths, and raised beds ready for planting. To protect the area from future flooding, an elevated ledge overlooking the creek will act as a buffer between the garden and creek. Raised gardens and low-lying rocky swales will also improve drainage throughout the area while detention basins on a neighboring section of land will help slow floodwaters.
With the improvements, Ludwig estimates the Ramble and its connecting trails will open months ahead of schedule in spring 2019.
“Once this area opens, Mercer visitors will have access to 4.5 additional acres of gardens and trails,” said Ludwig. “The area includes a small lake, benches, plant collections, and a teahouse that has not been accessible to the public in over two years.”
Stay tuned for more updates announcing the Creekside Ramble’s reopening!