Texas A&M University will soon be home to a 40-acre garden that will educate and rejuvenate Aggies for generations to come.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: a backyard dedicated to education and entertainment.
What started in 1998 as an initiative by the Texas A&M University Board of Regents to restore the green space on West Campus near White Creek grew into a large-scale project in 2011 when Dr. Mark Hussey ‘79, vice chancellor and dean of agriculture and life sciences, created a plan to turn the acreage into The Gardens.
Texas A&M is home to one of the largest and busiest campuses in the nation, but as the university continues to grow, the amount of green space disappears. These gardens, located on the corner of Discovery Drive and John Kimbrough, reflect an effort to preserve and enhance the university’s natural beauty.
“Texas A&M does a great job of taking care of students’ minds,” said Texas A&M President Michael Young. “These gardens will help take care of their spirits by providing them a place to recharge on a busy day.”
Under the supervision of Doug Welsh, Texas A&M professor emeritus and program coordinator for The Gardens project, Hussey’s plans are being brought to life. “Right now I live, eat and breathe this project,” Welsh said. “My job is to turn this dream garden into a reality.” Over the course of the next couple years, the project will restore, preserve and develop nearly 40 acres on West Campus into a public garden that will provide a place where visitors and students can relax and learn simultaneously, regardless of age or expertise.
Visible construction of the project began in fall 2015, starting with the restoration of White Creek. Funds from Texas A&M Residence Life, along with $1.6 million from the university, enabled the construction of bridges and sidewalks to address infrastructure needs and stream restoration. The bridges, along with a series of trail systems that cross the creek, link the Agriculture and Life Sciences Complex to the White Creek Apartments, an addition to Residence Life’s student living options. “Restoring White Creek with natural channel design addressed storm water management issues and enhanced the beauty of the creek,” said Welsh.
With that restoration completed, construction of The Gardens continued in four different phases. Phase one, begun in June 2016, includes the construction of 14 teaching gardens, an outdoor classroom, an event lawn, vineyard and grand arbor. This phase is set to be completed in winter 2017. The 14 gardens will not only serve as places for current and former students to relax, but also as teaching grounds for agriculture. Students of all ages will be able to visit the gardens to learn about plants, animals and the world around them. “I imagine yellow school buses full of K-12 children eager to be exposed to the natural land and higher education,” said Hussey. The shining jewel of phase one will be an octagon-shaped pavilion that will host workshops, classes and other events. The 1400-square-foot, open-air structure has the ability to be closed and sealed off, making it completely climate controlled. “This pavilion is going to be an iconic piece of architecture on Texas A&M’s campus,” Welsh said. “Just as Rudder Tower is recognized by the way it looks, one day students and visitors alike will be able to identify this pavilion.”
Phases two through four will include construction of facilities and features that will serve as outdoor entertainment venues for the performing arts, films, celebrations and social events. A re-creation of the grove amphitheater (much like the one that appeared on campus in the 1940’s), a courtyard, a post oak savannah ecosystem and an outdoor living area will undergo construction beginning in spring 2017.
“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 the unthinkable.”
Once completed, The Gardens at Texas A&M 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 a botanic garden, which is just meant to be looked at, or a park that is used 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 from a landscape point of view. “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.”
We’ve created a working list of gardens, recreational spaces and other attractions within the space that you can reserve in your family’s name or in honor of a loved one by committing to a gift. Mark Klemm ’81, assistant vice president for development for the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences at the Texas A&M Foundation, can assist you with endowment opportunities, payment plans and after-lifetime giving options that make it easy for anyone to participate.