New League City park demonstrates ways to be 'WaterSmart'

With help from the Texas Sea Grant Program at Texas A&M University, the city of League City has transformed a public park into a showcase for the principles of WaterSmart landscapes: water conservation, water quality and habitat for wildlife. 

Texas Sea Grant’s Texas Coastal Watershed Program (TCWP), a partnership between Texas Sea Grant and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Program, designed the new amenities at Ghirardi WaterSmart Park. Funded by the city’s Park Dedication Fund and a grant from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the park was completed in February and formally opened in March. The Galveston Bay Estuary Program was also a partner for the project. 

“The TCEQ grant for Ghirardi WaterSmart Park gives the city and other area entities the opportunity to study, showcase and improve water management,” said League City Mayor Tim Paulissen. “Water is one of our most valuable resources, and we are very excited about the opportunity to learn new and better ways to utilize and conserve that resource.” 

In addition to the pavilion, walking trails and playground found in a typical public park, Ghirardi WaterSmart Park has several special features that highlight water issues, including a cistern that collects rainwater and feeds into a drip irrigation system. 

“Recent drought years have served to remind all of us that water is precious,” said Charriss York, Texas Sea Grant’s Stormwater Extension program specialist. “Collecting and using rainwater for irrigation instead of turning on the hose, using native plants that are adapted to our unique climate and having more native areas and less lawn are all water conservation strategies that are used in the park.”  

Most of the bayous and creeks in the Houston area have degraded water quality as a result of everyday urban activity; the park uses low areas of land called swales and rain gardens, which resemble regular flowerbeds to collect and filter water, breaking down pollutants using the natural microbes in the soil. The pavilion has a “green roof,” a roof with living plants that reduces the amount of impervious surface — rooftops and materials used for most streets and parking lots that block rainwater from reaching the soil and increase rainwater runoff and runoff pollution. 

The Texas Coastal Watershed Program is also using the park as a living laboratory and will continue to monitor the effectiveness of the stormwater management features installed at the park. 

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