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Affiliate of the Month: From Dormant to Revitalized – How Keep Santa Fe Beautiful Came Back to Help the Community Find Peace After Tragedy

By March 1, 2019No Comments

Each month, KTB highlights a new affiliate organization on the blog and through an Instagram takeover. This campaign recognizes the diverse organizations working hard to keep Texas beautiful. Check out past highlighted affiliates here.

Santa Fe, Texas is a quaint little town with a population of 13,200, located about 30 miles south of Houston, in Galveston County.

Keep Santa Fe Beautiful’s roots began in 2003. Several community members came together with an ambitious idea to create an organization dedicated to improving the environment, aesthetic, and quality of life in Santa Fe, Texas. Many rallied around the newly formed organization and volunteered to help with Keep Santa Fe Beautiful’s first big project; to clean an abandoned 12-acre sand pit on Highway 6 near the city’s High School.

Over the next several weeks these dedicated volunteers worked tirelessly to remove more than 130 boats, 20 cars, 25 batteries, more than 2,000 tires, 100,000 pounds of steel and cleared nearly 1,200 cubic yards of trash.

Photo: Keep Santa Fe Beautiful volunteers cleaning abandoned sand pits in 2003.

After completing this project and receiving an honorable mention at the Keep Texas Beautiful’s Governor’s Community Achievement Awards, volunteer engagement declined. The City of Santa Fe took over the bi-annual recycle days to maintain the organization’s affiliate status with Keep Texas Beautiful. However, all other projects and programs went dormant for nearly 10 years.

Nearly 15 years after its creation, Keep Santa Fe Beautiful was revitalized following two life-changing events – one caused by nature, the other by a single person. On May 18, 2018, a lone shooter at Santa Fe High School killed 10 individuals, injured 13 others, and traumatized thousands more. Just eight months prior, Hurricane Harvey released 52 inches of rain, flooding hundreds of homes and businesses. Many had not yet fully repaired or replaced their water-soaked property when suddenly the community faced a bigger challenge – how to address the needs of their families and neighbors shattered by a horrendous act of violence.

A local community member approached the City of Santa Fe with an idea to redevelop an underutilized city park into a serene and restorative therapeutic garden to help the community of Santa Fe begins to heal from these tragedies. By October, a group formed to revitalize Keep Santa Fe Beautiful to oversee the garden project.

The proposal sparked the interest of many others including; a Santa Fe alumni, who is the co-founder of an award-winning landscape architecture firm in Houston, Clark Condon Associates, a locally owned land surveying company, GeoSurv, and a civil engineering company, LJA Engineering. Together with Keep Santa Fe Beautiful, the transformation of the park adjacent to the City Hall building in Santa Fe and design of the Mae S. Bruce: Therapeutic Garden, was envisioned. 

Photo: Mae S. Bruce: Therapeutic Garden Concept

 The 1.5-acre park design includes a sensory garden, a handicap accessible trail, meditative areas, a water feature, artful mosaics, community seating, an open lawn next to a gazebo, and a 7-foot fence on two sides of the property. The garden has been specifically designed for those dealing with PTSD but will offer healing benefits and a restorative area for all. Also, its nature-based healing approach will help those impacted from May 2018, as well as assist veterans who make-up almost 10% of the population in the City of Santa Fe.

Keep Santa Fe Beautiful broke ground on this project in mid-October when they partnered with Eight Days of Hope and 4B Disaster Response Network. These organizations sent nearly 120 volunteers from all over the nation to Santa Fe for a week-long volunteer event, to begin stage one clean-up and construction at the park. In only eight days, the volunteers were able to complete the fence, clear the land, remove and relocate playground equipment that was on site, and refurbish the gazebo.

Photo: Volunteers from Eight Days of Hope constructing cedar plank fencing at Therapeutic Garden.

 During stage two a civil engineer will evaluate the property and assist in ways to reduce future flooding on the property. Once the drainage plan is established, stage three includes, trails, memorial benches, and plantings. Upon completion of the quarter-million-dollar project, Keep Santa Fe Beautiful will partner with the City of Santa Fe Resiliency Center to weave the garden into their current therapeutic programs to further help the community heal.

In addition to this important project, Keep Santa Fe Beautiful continues to partner with the City of Santa Fe and Galveston County to host a bi-annual tire recycle day. On April 27th, the organization will hold the first-ever Santa Fe Earth Day Festival to engage the community further and not lose the revitalization momentum. Additionally, the organization has partnered with the City of Santa Fe Resiliency Center to collect and recycle 2,000 pounds of plastic lids to be turned into memorial benches. To learn more about this project follow us on Keep Texas Beautiful’s Instagram on March 12, as Keep Santa Fe Beautiful takes over for the day.

While Keep Santa Fe Beautiful has been around for over 15 years, we are really starting all over, and to do this we need continued support. Please share our story and visit our website to learn more about our revitalization, the therapeutic garden, and ways you can help;

​Blog post written by Mandy Jordan, Executive Director, Keep Santa Fe Beautiful.