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Col. John W. Armstrong Park - 1126 Birchwood - Garland, Texas

Since we are celebrating National Parks and Recreation Month, and since I’m a member of the Garland Parks and Recreation board, I’ve decided to celebrate by sharing information with you about some of the great parks in my community. 

While I will try to at least mention all 63 parks, there won’t be enough time to provide you with extensive detail on each one.  You will either have to believe me when I tell you that each one is special in its own way—or better yet, you’ll have to visit them all as I did a few summers ago with two of my grandchildren and form your own opinion.  Each park has its own special history, personality and attractions.  I’ll begin the series with a park located in south Garland.

  

 

Col. John W. Armstrong Park 

City of Garland – 1126 Birchwood

A great park for having fun and improving your own physical fitness!

This park is dedicated to the memory of Col. John William Armstrong (b. December 5, 1926) who was the squadron commander of the 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron. On November 9, 1967, he was flying in a McDonnell Douglas Phantom II Fighter (F-4C) over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The aircraft John W. Armstrong and Lance P. Sijan were flying went down carrying FMU-35 Fuzes, which were suspected of detonating early and blowing up the aircraft.  [A series of pilot losses beginning in 1965 have been attributed to defective FMU-35 Fuzes detonating prematurely.]

Col. Armstrong grew up in Garland, Texas, attended SMU, and graduated 16th in his class of 564 at West Point.  During this tour he was selected to lead the Skyblazers, the USAF Europe's aerial demonstration team, comparable to the Thunderbirds in the United States. He also met and married Margarete Burch. They moved to the US in 1961.

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 PARK FEATURES

An outstanding feature of this park is its signage.  I daresay that few parks have such outstanding and educational signage.  Frankly, I believe that signage is a critical feature of parks as it can greatly assist visitors in using the area to its fullest extent.  Yes, unfortunately, many of us need to be reminded how to have fun.

  • Playground with equipment
    Your children can play while you walk laps around the park.

  • Picnic area with tables
    You can bring your family here for a picnic.

  • Pollinator garden
    You can enjoy the beauty of the garden and observe pollinators in action.  If you don’t know much about these plants and their pollinator visitors, you can read the beautiful and informative signage about them.  If you are an amateur photographer, this is a great place to get those special nature shots.  This garden is a great example of volunteerism in action.  Keep Garland Beautiful spearheaded the installation of this pollinator garden.  Our Parks and Recreation Board, our Neighborhood Vitality, and several other local volunteer groups such as Loving Garland Green assisted in the installation.

  • Walking sidewalk
    If you walked around the perimeter of this park several times a week, you would definitely notice an improvement in your health.

  • Exercise stations
    If, when walking around the perimeter of the park several times a week you stopped and followed the instructions found at each of the three exercise stations, you would improve your health even more.  In fact, after a few months, your friends might not even recognize you.

  • Park Events
    Of course, like all our Garland Parks, our Parks and Recreation Department schedule public events to be held in them throughout the year.  The Col. Armstrong Park is no different.  Here is an advertisement for one of their events and there is another coming up July 11.
                                                                 

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LAYOUT OF PARK

As you can see from the map above, the park is a slightly irregular rectangle. I would estimate its size at approximately three acres.  Residential streets on three sides access it.  Its backside has no street access.  Street traffic for the area is pretty much limited to the residents who live around the park.  This is truly a neighborhood park. 

All the mature trees are located near the center of the park, which is where you will also find the picnic tables and playground equipment.

The design of this park is ideal for parents or grandparents with young children.  The adults can get their exercise walking or running around the perimeter of the park on the sidewalk, or by using the exercise bars and stationary bicycle at one of the three exercises stations located on the sidewalk path.  The children, having their own fun in the playground located in the center of the park, are visible to the adults at all times as they walk or exercise.  Because of the central location of the playground there is little worry that a child could dash into the street before being nabbed by the adult.  Add to that the very low traffic patterns in this area and I would probably dub the Col. John Armstrong Park as one of the safest in Garland for small children—and thus the most relaxing for their caretakers.

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HISTORY OF THE POLLINATOR GARDEN

This park has one of several and growing number of pollinator gardens located in public areas such as parks and schools of Garland, Texas.  Planting was planned and led by Betty Roberts and Reba Collins of Keep Garland Beautiful

Keep Garland Beautiful applied for and received a small Green Communities Program Grant from Rockwell Collins to purchase native plants and garden material for butterfly gardens in 2016. They used that money in addition to the Rockwell Collins volunteers for the Armstrong Park project. Rockwell Collins is a company with locations in Plano and Grapevine.  It was the Rockwell Collins grant program and their great employees who showed up with their elbow grease for digging that made this pollinator garden (also a Monarch Way Station) possible.  

I brought some asters to install on behalf of Loving Garland Green. Other volunteers from several groups also brought lots of native plants that pollinators love.  Looking at the lovely garden today, it is hard to believe that it has been less than a year since this space became a pollinator garden.  I just revisited my invitation to this event last year from Keep Garland Beautiful and confirmed that October 29, 2016 from nine to noon was the planting time.

Less than a year ago, there was no pollinator garden at the Col. John W. Armstrong Park as the photo below, taken some time in 2016 will attest. 

 
Col. John W. Armstrong Park prior to October 29, 2016.

Today, thanks to the leadership of Keep Garland Beautiful, and the generosity of the people at Rockwell Collins, this worthy park not only has a lovely pollinator garden; it also has several beautiful and informative signs that inform visitors regarding pollinators and plants that attract them.  When I was there on July 2, 2017 I also observed a pair of Gulf Fritillaries. 

 
Pollinator Garden at Col. John W. Armstrong Park –July 2, 2017.


Pollinator sign at the Armstrong Park Pollinator Garden - July 2, 2017 

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 GUIDED EVERY STEP OF THE WAY

One of three exercise stations at Col. John W. Armstrong Park – July 2, 2017

You don’t have to try to figure out what to do with those bars.  The signage will guide you every step of the way.  Imagine these exercise stations as exercise trainers who charge no fees.

 

Some might think of this bicycle as the “bicycle to nowhere” as you can sit and pedal all day and you will still be right where you are sitting.  However, even if you are still sitting there, your body will be moving on to a better place.  Come to the park and try it out.  You’ll see what I mean.  With this park you don’t even need a personal trainer.  Just come to the park, get out of your car and follow the instructions on the signs.  Do this for an hour a day, every day for a month, and your friends and family may not recognize you.

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Coming Event at the Col. John W. Armstrong Park

 

Parks and gardens are where communities come together.  We need them and they need us.  Do something this month for a park in your community. Pull a weed, pick up a piece of trash.  Call up your local Parks and Recreation Department and ask what you can do.  The most outstanding advertisement for any community is the quality of its parks.

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