Clinton City Park in Houston was bustling with activity on November 18 when 300 people gathered to celebrate the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Houston Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, one of 17 partnerships around the country designed to connect city residents with conservation stewardship. The Houston partnership brings together more than 20 organizations to help Houstonians learn about, find and care for nature in their community.
The partnership, established in 2013, seeks to link each of four refuges and their Friends groups with four Houston parks and their support groups. Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge and Clinton City Park are the first. Later Brazoria Refuge and Hermann Park, Attwater Prairie Chicken Refuge and Carverdale City Park, and Trinity River Refuge and Hobart Taylor City Park will be working together. Nancy Brown, Southwest Region urban and Friends coordinator, expects Friends groups and sister parks to apply for grants together to implement projects.
Guests at the November 18 celebration included Houston representatives of Phi Beta Sigma and Zeta Phi Beta, the African American fraternal organizations that have agreements with the Service to promote conservation among young people. The Friends of Anahuac Refuge began making connections with the Super Neighborhood Committee, a civic association and Clinton Park support group.
During the ceremony, the first seeds were planted for both a pollinator garden and a native seed bank. The 17-acre native seed bank on two city parks will provide seeds for habitat restoration, including seeding 38,000 acres of city parkland with native species. The gardens were funded with a $1,500 grant from the National Conservation Training Center, which offered a course in Houston on planting habitat gardens with kids. NCTC offers “Building Urban Wildlife Habitats with Youth” in a different location each year. The next course, which is open to Friends, will be held at San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge in May 2016. For more information, contact Nancy_Zapotocki@fws.gov.
The Furr High School Green Ambassadors will maintain the new pollinator garden. Honored with a national award for outreach, diversity and inclusion, the high school students in the Clinton Park neighborhood conduct nature programs with middle and elementary school children. During the celebration, the young Ambassadors hosted a booth where residents could draw their ideas of what they wanted to see in the neighborhood park.
During an after-school program and summer camp operated by Houston Parks and Recreation Department in the Clinton Park community center, refuge staff helped create and teach environmental education lessons and led a field trip to Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, located about an hour from Houston. The curriculum has been designed so community center staff and others could easily be trained to teach and incorporate environmental education into their youth programs.
Since its establishment, the Houston Partnership has supported 28 organizations with habitat restoration and/or environmental education programs. The partnership has reached more than 1,190 youth through both formal and informal environmental education programs.
Go online to learn more about the Service’s Urban Wildlife Conservation Program.