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Volunteers help restoration efforts at Mercer Botanic Gardens

September 22, 2018

The cloudy weather and occasional rain didn’t dampen volunteers’ efforts to restore Mercer Botanic Gardens on Saturday morning.

Jim Nutter, the interim director of Mercer, said that the Tax Day flood of 2016 and Hurricane Harvey had turned the campus into a moonscape as plants and trees were washed away while buildings were damaged.

“In December, this was a disaster,” he said.

About 20 feet of water flooded Mercer and also damaged the Baldwin Boettcher Library, which has been closed for over a year.

County officials recently announced plans to reopen the library after remodeling the building.

The gardens’ staff were beginning cleaning efforts from the Tax Day flood during summer 2017 before Harvey devastated the area.

“I think they felt a little overwhelmed. They just finished cleaning it up from the Tax Day flood a week before Harvey happened. Then, they watched the whole thing get run down again,” Nutter said.

Gradually, being restored through the efforts of Harris County Precinct 4, the gardens’ staff and volunteers.

On Saturday, over 100 volunteers from The Mission Continues, a volunteer organization made up of military veterans, descended on Mercer to help restore the ramble garden.

Armed with rakes, volunteers pushed sod on the cleared 4.5-acre area before setting down grass and pine straw.

Josue Guerrero, a platoon leader with The Mission Continues from Los Angeles, said he wanted to get his hands dirty with clean up efforts.

“We know Houston was rocked by the hurricane and it has not fully recovered,” he said.

Jenniqual Johnson, a platoon leader from St. Louis, said she has volunteered in different cities after natural disasters.

After Hurricanes Katrina, Harvey, Irma and Florence, Johnson said that providing people with supplies and clean up efforts was necessary for a community’s recovery.

“I like that we don’t just come in, do a project and leave. We come in, do a project and we continue to support that project and make sure there’s continuity,” she said.

Nutter said the volunteers’ efforts on Saturday would help open the ramble garden in the summer or fall of 2019.

Another major area on the grounds would be restoring Storey Lake.

“The future of this place is going to be community service. We’re going to open up this place in such a way that we want you to interact with what’s going on here,” he said.

mayra.cruz@chron.com

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