New Member Profile: Discovery Green

This week we welcome Discovery Green as a new member of the CEC.

A mere 15 years ago, the site of Discovery Green, on the east side of downtown Houston, consisted of two barren parking lots adjacent to the George R. Brown Convention Center, plus a small strip of greenery known as the Houston Center Gardens. Today, Discovery Green is one of the most innovative city parks in the United States, embracing a mission

to provide an uncommonly beautiful, urban green space in the heart of Houston that serves as a village green for our city, a source of health and happiness for our citizens, and a window into the incredible diversity of talents and traditions that enrich life in Houston.

Discovery Green fulfills that mission by offering continuous programming within its scenic, 12-acre setting, thereby attracting a diverse crowd of Houstonians, Gulf Coast residents, and out-of-town visitors. The park’s welcoming atmosphere encourages all who visit to engage their senses-by seeing, touching, hearing, tasting, and exploring.

Launched in the early 2000s through a public-private partnership, Discovery Green was created with the support of a number of philanthropic organizations, including the Brown Foundation, the Kinder Foundation, the Wortham Foundation, and Houston Endowment Inc., under the leadership of then-mayor Bill White. Since it opened, in April 2008, Discovery Green has enticed more than 1.2 million people annually to its lush environs.  Most come to enjoy the park’s 600-plus free events, such as concerts, fitness classes, and movies; splash in its fountains in the summer; or skate on its frozen Kinder Lake in the winter.

Discovery Green, says Diane Summers, executive director of University Relations at University of Houston–Downtown, “. . . has a safe, community feeling, and is a comfortable setting for families, couples, schoolchildren, professionals, or anyone else who wants to find a relaxing green space without having to leave downtown.”

In addition, this urban jewel has become the city’s go-to venue for large cultural festivals, such as the Houston Korean Festival, and major events, such as the many Super Bowl activities it will host in 2017. A variety of other park events, such as Recycling Saturday, the FUNomenal Family Festival, and Signature Events, are held throughout the year, and these provide numerous volunteer opportunities. For information about volunteering, go to

One of the major forces in the transformation of downtown Houston’s east side over the past decade, Discovery Green has truly helped change people’s impression of our central city. Formerly seen as a place strictly for work, downtown is now viewed as a destination offering unbounded opportunities for play as well. For more information about Discovery Green, contact Barry Mandell, president and park director, at [email protected] or 713-800-4708.

New Member Welcome: the Texas Regional Office of the National Parks Conservation Association

This week the CEC welcomes as a new member the Texas Regional Office of the National Parks Conservation Association.

 From the Big Bend to the Big Thicket, the 16 national parks and sites of Texas welcome more than 5 million visitors each year. These guests–Texas residents and far-flung travelers alike–come to learn about the proud history of the Lone Star State and experience the amazing wildlife, cultural treasures, and natural beauty that abound within this diverse group of iconic lands.

Working to help protect these enthralling national spaces is the Texas Regional Office of the National Parks Conservation Association. Opened in 2007, the Texas Regional Office facilitates collaborative projects that help ensure the preservation of these unique sites, as well as to designate exciting new ones, with support from NPCA’s one million members, supporters, partners and friends.

The office’s latest project is the proposed creation of a Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area on the central and upper Texas coast, stretching from Palacios to High Island. Linking nearly 250,000 acres of public beaches, bays, refuges, parks, historic sites and partner-owned nature preserves, this proposed natural wonderland represents a collaboration among more than 20 site partners.

Complementing the NPCA’s conservation activities are the three publications it produces: the quarterly National Parks magazine, which offers compelling stories about parklands throughout the United States; the Texas Pride report, which celebrates the unique features of the Lone Star State’s national parks; and the periodic Texas Office Field Report, which provides news and further information about the priceless national parks within our great state.

To learn more about the NPCA’s efforts, including the proposed Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area, please contact Victoria Herrin, campaign director, at [email protected].

New Member Profile: Last Organic Outpost


LOO header 7.2013

This week we are proud to welcome as a new member the Last Organic Outpost.

A refrigeration mechanic with a passion for cultivating the earth, Joe Icet founded the Last Organic Outpost to help meet the pressing need for nutritious food that many Houstonians face each day. The mission of this pioneering group is to promote healthy lifestyles by establishing a local-food economy in Houston’s underserved communities through urban farming, as well as farm-based art and education. Joe retired in 2013, and now devotes all his time to the movement.

The Last Organic Outpost teaches residents of these communities to produce safe, healthy, and accessible food for all, using sustainable methods of agriculture. Its current focus is Houston’s Fifth Ward, where the Outpost’s main program, the Emile Street Community Farm, is located.

From this base of operations, the group is seeking to transform the neglected Fifth Ward food desert through three initiatives: outreach, farming, and education. Its goal is the launching of a “Food Everywhere” movement through the creation of home gardens as well as a mega-orchard of fruit and nut trees that encompass entire neighborhoods, winding across residential yards and public spaces alike.

Through its farming initiative, the Outpost seeks to create a local-food economy by training farmers in nonconventional, sustainable, environmentally sound methods; encourage the flourishing of farms and local-food-related businesses in the Fifth Ward; and eventually establish community farms throughout the city.

The Outpost’s ultimate goal is to establish an Urban Agriculture District that will help produce our region’s food and enable local farmers to thrive despite economic, environmental, health, and social challenges.

LOO logoThe focus of the Outpost’s education initiative is to host community events to teach residents about nutrition, urban agriculture, and sustainability. The farm has a stage and holds frequent music and speaking events.

Many volunteer opportunities are available with the Outpost, including working at the farm, helping to organize outreach and plan projects, writing grants, managing the group’s Web site, developing software, publicizing the group’s work, and conducting research.

For more information about the Last Organic Outpost, and to attend the group’s meetings, e-mail [email protected]. Be sure to visit the Farm on facebook for news and events, as they spring up all the time!