We spent Thanksgiving in the mixed-use, urban-infill, sustainably-designed Mueller neighborhood in east Austin, where my in-laws hosted us in their lovely new home. As always when we visit, I’m impressed by the park spaces and community amenities available to Mueller residents, and I fantasize about moving into one of the charming, cheerfully painted homes. I’d have to drastically downsize my garden, however, as the lots are tiny.
For many people (and I can imagine being one of them in the not-too-distant future), plentiful parks and green spaces compensate for a small home lot, with less to personally maintain. At Mueller, one of these is a new community garden with 132 plots that give residents a place to grow food organically in a shared space.
The community garden is located in newly opened John Gaines Park, our family’s post-feast-stroll destination. I stopped to take a few pictures while the kids headed for the playground.
Shaded work tables
Eggplant — someone’s planning to make ratatouille, maybe?
Punny garden decor
Most of the plots look well tended.
More charming houses in the distance
Across a field, the old Mueller Airport control tower still stands, decorated for the season with a lighted Noel. I love that they saved the 60s-era tower when the airport was torn down and redeveloped. (Mueller Airport, Austin’s old in-town airport, was shuttered in 1999, replaced by our current airport, Austin Bergstrom, on the southeast side of town). I’ve heard that eventually a mixed-use condo-retail development will be built around it.
John Gaines Park contains not just the community garden but also a playground and public pool, where I spotted this clean-lined restroom with a green roof of very dry-loving plants and a runoff-cleansing bioswale garden at ground level with water-loving plants like horsetail reed and dwarf palmetto.
Prickly pear and red yucca on the green roof look great against a bright blue sky. According to an article in Wildflower magazine, the 1200-square-foot roof is irrigated only with harvested rainwater.
The play spaces at the park include a large lawn (where we played football and frisbee), swings, an arched climbing structure with bark-cushioned fall zone, and — something I’ve never before seen at a park — steep berms carpeted in artificial turf, with concrete culverts running through them, making fun hiding and crawl spaces for small children.
The berms were a hit with kids and adults, who lounged on them, climbed on them, and ran up them with their dogs. Natural-grass berms would never stand up to that sort of use in our hot, semi-dry climate, of course, so artificial turf seems like a smart choice for this application. It will be interesting to see how well it holds up over time.
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