History of the Garden
The idea for a garden on the complex grounds was originally conceived in September 2000. Ultimately, the Garden was named in honor James Robert Curtis, Jr. (1945-2000). J.R. was a former Longview City Council member and the youngest Mayor in the history of the City of Longview. A native son of Longview, J.R. loved and served his community. His vision for the City of Longview was a community that was inclusive of all people; a community inviting to both industry and family life; a community that looked forward while never losing the atmosphere of the family town; a community made up of friendly neighbors. This Garden is proof of the ideals of the life of J.R. Curtis, Jr. - that beauty in nature can exist in, and be part of, industry and a growing vibrant community.
Approximately 2,000 volunteer hours were contributed to the project, along with in-kind services and monetary donations. The planning meetings and subsequent work days involved organizations throughout the community of Longview. The Judson Lions Club and Greggton Rotary Club led the way to provide by obtaining a grant to assist with the development of the Garden. The first work day to begin construction of the beds was held in June 2001. The water garden was constructed in February 2002. The first day of planting was March 16, 2002 followed by a second planting day in June 2002.
At the time of the J.R. Curtis, Jr. Memorial Garden for the Blind dedication in August 2002, it was only the second of its type in the state of Texas. The Garden combines horticulture, recreation, and physical rehabilitation, designed with immediate and constant sensory stimulation. Being a garden for the blind, it focuses on the senses of taste, smell, touch and sound.
The Garden complements the Longview Convention Complex, promotes nature tourism, and provides a beautiful locale for intimate gatherings, photo opportunities, or meditation in a serene setting. Each spring, Compassionate Friends host a Butterfly release. Thousands of visitors come every year to take photos, meditate, and enjoy the beauty created and maintained predominately by volunteers. On any given weekend, there will be family portraits, wedding photos, graduation photos, weddings, soccer team pictures, or families relaxing and enjoying the Garden.
In October 2014, the Gregg County Master Gardeners Association adopted the Garden. The agreement was a two year commitment which continues as of today. In 2015, a boulder with a plaque mounted on it was placed in the Garden to honor the hard work and dedication of the Master Gardeners. The countless hours of planning and on-site planting, grooming and constant care have taken the Garden to a new level of beauty for everyone to enjoy.
Long term plans for the Garden include Braille plaques to identify the plants and a tour guide pamphlet to accompany visitors on a stroll through the Garden, with the possibility of headsets with touring information and an interactive app to enhance the viewing of the Garden.
The J.R. Curtis, Jr. Memorial Garden for the Blind was made possible through the generosity and dedication of the following:
- Judson Lions Club
- Greggton Rotary
- Gregg County Master Gardeners Association
- Earnest Jackson
- AAA Rock & Gardens
- Boy Scout Troup 201
- PJM Construction
- Native Plant Society
- Carruth Nursery
- Emerald Gardens
- Rusty Tucker
- Charles Frith, AIA
- PALS Foundation
- Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Youth
- East Texas Irrigation Association
Concept: Bonnie Holloway & Chris Walters
Design: Rob Holloway & Paul Richards
Construction: Charles Clark