Houston is one of the largest cities in America, both in terms of population and sheer size. The city, particularly inside the Loop, is laden with tall office buildings and other infrastructure. And yet, right in the middle of downtown resides Discovery Green, which serves as a constant reminder of the beauty of the great outdoors. This weekend, the park – which spans nearly 12 acres – will once again host an event that aims to connect those in the city with nature and the outdoors.
Discovery Green will host the ninth annual Take Me Outdoors Houston Festival from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday; the event is free and open to the public. The event will feature hands-on exhibits and activities and various other opportunities to better engage those who don’t gain too much exposure to the outdoors.
“This is one of our signature events, and people keep coming back every year,” says Lauren “Ren” Mitchell, marketing manager for Discovery Green. “What we really want to do is introduce other organizations in and around Houston that have activities and information regarding how people that live in the city can get exposed to the outdoors. This is a chance for Houstonians to learn how to put nature in their lives.”
Of course, as anyone familiar with recent events is aware, Hurricane Harvey led to the postponement or outright cancellation of many outdoor events in the coming months, as people turn their focus to rebuilding their homes or helping out friends and loved ones aiming to do the same. Mitchell admits that Discovery Green officials gave thought to postponing Take Me Outdoors Houston, but in the end, decided that – some three-plus weeks after Harvey struck – the time was right for Houstonians to get back outdoors.
“There’s nothing more healing than being outside, especially at Discovery Green because it’s so remarkable,” Mitchell says. “You see the skyline in the background, you see all that grass, and it can certainly make you reflective. It’s truly healing to be as one with your community as well.”
It’s also convenient that, as many in the greater Houston area have spent money rebuilding their homes or donating money to charitable causes, Take Me Outdoors Houston is a free event.
“You’re not having to invest financially in this if you don’t have the money,” Mitchell says. “Plus, it’s very family-friendly, and we take that very seriously, for Discovery Green to serve as a place of respite and a place of community. We’re very keen to what’s happening post-Harvey in the coming weeks, and our mission of being a village green has never faltered. That’s our mission, and that’s what we do; we’re a place to put the rest away.”
Take Me Outdoors Houston will feature a variety of exhibitors, including Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, Texas Outdoor Family, Wetlands Center and Baytown Nature Center, Laser Shot Shooting Simulator, Youth Hunting Program and much more.
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“By introducing Texans, especially urban adults and kids, to outdoor recreation, our woods and waters and natural places become more relevant and important to them,” says Heidi Rao, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department hunter education specialist in Houston. “We believe recreation leads to conservation. If they’re out there enjoying the natural world, they come to care about it and finally to care for it.”
The festival will also host a pair of educational demonstrations of live hawks by falconer John Karger of Last Chance Forever – the Bird of Prey Conservancy. Those events are scheduled for 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Take Me Outdoors Houston, like Discovery Green itself, doesn’t sell itself on bells and whistles and high-tech gadgetry. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
“We go to great lengths to not have a lot of distractions in the park – signage, more gimmicky-type things,” Mitchell says. “You have to experience the park and festivals like this as is. It gives people the chance to walk around and find something that means something to them.”