News Categories: Featured

04 Apr
By: Communications 0

Veteran Actor Brings ‘The Bard’ to Life During Precinct 4’s Shakespeare Festival

Most people don’t know William Shakespeare created more than 1,000 commonly used words and phrases or that he was a well-respected businessman, property owner, and actor. But for native Houstonian David Born, knowing the facts is all part of transforming into Shakespeare.

“An overall understanding of the character and his work is important so you can really present an even and correct representation of Shakespeare,” he said. “You need to know his biography, personal and professional history, the types of plays he wrote and when he wrote them, how poetry works, and the devices he employed in his personal life.”

Born, a professional stage and film actor, has played Shakespeare for the last 17 years as both a stage and character actor. A Houston Shakespeare Festival veteran, he has appeared in more than 12 of Shakespeare’s plays and more than 100 plays total. His credits also include more than 60 movies and TV shows, such as the just released The Highwaymen, Friday Night Lights Walker, Texas Ranger, Prison Break, Community, Constantine, Underground, and Texas Chainsaw 3D.

Although many people think of acting as memorizing lines, Born often improvises his material. That ability has allowed him to play more dynamic roles, including Shakespeare during Precinct 4’s Shakespeare Festival. During this year’s festival, Born will roam the festival grounds in full Shakespearian attire, interacting with the public directly.

“You need the ability to be a speaker, a one-man monologue or show,” he said. “To respond to what has been asked. To create from what is around you. To follow your impulse and not be afraid.”
Despite the challenge, Born said introducing a new generation to Shakespeare adds meaning to the role.
“Sharing the arts and this great man’s work with children and adults is a major part of playing Shakespeare,” he said. “I want to engage them and let them know that Shakespeare wasn’t that different from us.”

Shakespeare fans can catch Born in action during Precinct 4’s Shakespeare Festival on Saturday, April 13, 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Burroughs Park. Attendees will be able to enjoy crafts, entertainers, face painting, games, and food trucks. Performances of Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona take place rain or shine Friday, April 12, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, April 13, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, April 14, at 2 p.m.

Costumes are encouraged. Theater-style seating will be available under the covered pavilion at Burroughs Park on a first-come, first-served basis. Everyone is invited to bring their own refreshments or purchase items from the food trucks during the festival.

Established in 2013, Precinct 4’s Shakespeare in the Shade presentations are part of Commissioner R. Jack Cagle’s educational and recreational commitment to Harris County residents. Burroughs Park is located at located at 9738 Hufsmith Road in Tomball, 77375.

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29 Mar
By: Communications 0

Precinct 4 Libraries, Adapting to the Modern Age

By Crystal Simmons

Libraries have long held the reputation as a place where dusty tomes and dog-eared thrillers go to retire. While thrillers still abound, today’s libraries couldn’t be more different from their predecessors.

As digital technology expands, forward-thinking librarians are redefining the public library system, with more programs, events, technology, and digital material than ever.

“People are realizing that we do more than just check out books,” says Edward Melton, director of the Harris County Public Library system (HCPL). “Some patrons regularly visit our libraries while others have never even set foot inside.”

A Hub of Technology

While traditional library services are still in demand, digital usage is growing by about 25 percent annually, says Melton.

Patrons can now reserve print materials online, check out digital books without leaving their home, and try out technology rarely available to the public, such as 3D printers, laser cutters, mill machines, and vinyl cutters. Eventually, Kingwood Branch Library, Lone Star College-Tomball Library, and Barbara Bush Branch Library will open dedicated spaces for patrons to use manufacturing technology as part of HCPL’s Makerspaces program.

“As new technology arrives, we look at how we can use it to engage the public,” says Melton. “Right now, we’re exploring virtual technology and drone classes.”

Libraries of the Future

As online reservations and digital libraries become more popular, libraries aren’t as dependent on brick and mortar locations, says Melton. Across the United States, libraries are expanding to nontraditional settings, such as community centers and even parks.

“At HCPL, we’re definitely looking at opportunities where we can partner with community centers and expand access to digital and print materials,” says Melton. “Patrons can use our services without visiting a traditional library space.”

Two of those partner locations now include the Little Blue Library at Mercer Botanic Gardens and the Lone Star College-Creekside Center.

In January, LSC-Creekside Center began offering story time for toddlers and preschool-age children every Monday, along with a small library of children’s books, with more services expected to follow. Each session features stories, songs, rhymes, and an occasional craft activity.

“Both of these are great examples of how our partnerships allow us to provide additional services without having a new building,” says Melton.

At the Little Blue Library, visitors can drop off and pick up books, browse a small book collection, and attend programming. The Little Blue Library was opened in an existing Mercer Botanic Gardens building as a temporary replacement for Baldwin Boettcher Library, which has been closed since Hurricane Harvey. Eventually, Baldwin Boettcher Library, next door to Mercer, will be restored and incorporated into Mercer Botanic Gardens.

“Libraries are still viewed in such traditional senses,” says Melton. “These partnerships are allowing people to see libraries from a different perspective. This is a trend for libraries across the country, but HCPL is really taking advantage of opportunities to work with new organizations.”

Blurring the Lines

Even as libraries form more partnerships with community centers, some library patrons say their local branch already offers community center-worthy classes. For Chrissa Sandlin, Roxanne Sandlin, and Carrie Van Horn, trips to the library aren’t usually about checking out books—instead it’s about writing them.

For the past five years, the group has met weekly for Baldwin Boettcher Library’s Word Crafters class to discuss writing projects and to refine their skills.

“To me, the library has always felt like a community center,” says Roxanne Sandlin. “They offer crafts, lectures, ESL classes, and more. They are a great service to the community.”

Chrissa Sandlin says she’s always enjoyed visiting the library, but believes it’s changed over the past two decades.

“Back in the day, libraries were very much about looking at books and taking them home,” she says. “It was just a book exchange. Now, I’ve gotten the opportunity to pursue more community-based library activities.”

Today, Chrissa Sandlin says she can access a wider range of information and programs from publishing a book to resume writing. She’s also able to stay updated on the latest library programs through the social media platforms she already uses.

“They are always so active on Facebook and social media, so you can know about upcoming events,” she says. “I feel connected even if I’m not physically there every day.”

According to Melton, these changing perspectives are key.

“Our image is finally starting to change,” he says. “We’re serving the community every day. We open disaster recovery centers after natural disasters and cooling centers on high heat index days. We establish pop-up libraries. And, we provide programming for children and adults every day. We do so much more than just check out books.”

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29 Mar
By: Communications 0

Precinct 4’s Unofficial Historian

By Alicia Alaniz

There’s something special about the way Monte Parks retells historical events that brings the past to life.

For more than 15 years, Parks has taught early Texas history, first as a programmer and tour guide at Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center and now as assistant superintendent for the Harris County Precinct 4 Parks Department.

“I always try to teach what was going on in the world that led the earliest Texans to their decisions and what happened as a result. People respond much better to that type of history than just names and dates,” Parks says. “I also try to show how things going on in the world today relate to history.”

Although Parks has always loved history, he didn’t become an expert overnight. The process required years of dedicated independent study and an insatiable thirst for knowledge.

“I read about 200 history books over the past 15 years. If I was going to teach Texas history, I needed to know more than the park visitors or students,” Parks says.

He also started participating in historical re-enactments during festivals and field trips at Jones Park. As a re-enactor, Parks would outfit himself in authentic apparel and demonstrate the lifestyles of early Texans. Along the way, he picked up a few pioneer skills, such as woodworking and blacksmithing.

“I’m a better storyteller and have more appreciation for our early ancestors here in Texas thanks to re-enacting. When you’re working on a pioneer homestead or cooking over an open fire, you’re living the part of someone from history,” Parks explains. “The experience was eye opening. Life on the frontier was hard. Everyone in the family had to work to make it a success.”

A turning point in his career came when a group of senior adults touring the Redbud Hill Homestead at Jones Park asked him to speak at a meeting for the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. Soon, his reputation as a lively presenter led to regular requests from various groups and organizations, including a class at Lone Star College-Tomball.

Today, his undeniable passion and refreshing approach to Texas history is present in every lecture, pontoon boat tour, and senior adult bus trip he leads.

Parks currently oversees Precinct 4’s Trails As Parks Division, which is a mobile team that works to connect people with nature through outdoor recreation, ecotourism, and environmental education.

You can also find him sharing presentations at Precinct 4’s community centers or at one of five Lone Star College campuses in between tours with senior adults to historical landmarks.

“There is so much to discover. I try to learn something new every day,” Parks says.

“I believe in lifelong learning, and I enjoy giving others an opportunity to continue learning too.”

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29 Mar
By: Communications 0

Preserving History with Precinct 4’s Legacy Trees

By Crystal Simmons

When Harris County Precinct 4 Arborist Laura Carlton plants a tree, she not only considers its future but also its history.

With Texas A&M’s Famous Trees of Texas as her guide, Carlton travels the state collecting acorns, seeds, and cuttings from trees present during significant historical events, such as the Galveston Storm of 1900 or the historic retreat of General Sam Houston. Her goal? To keep the legacy of these famous trees alive in Precinct 4 parks.

“These trees have stood for hundreds of years and hold irreplaceable genetic and historic significance,” says Carlton. “But we have no idea when a lightning strike, hurricane, or disease could take one down. Since we began collecting, four historic trees are no longer standing and three are showing significant limb failure. Precinct 4 ensures these and other historic trees in Texas live on through their descendants.”

Growing the Legacy Trees Project

Plans for a historic tree program began in 2015 when Commissioner R. Jack Cagle received a historic tree donation from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Since then, Precinct 4’s collection has grown to 30 of the 51 historic trees listed in the Famous Trees of Texas guidebook.

“Each of these historic trees tells a unique story about our early years,” says Commissioner Cagle. “These living museums form a vital link to our rich history, reminding us of the dynamic characters and influential events from our past.”

As the need for trees in Precinct 4 greenspaces grew, Commissioner Cagle expanded the historic tree program to include fruit and nut trees, mass tree plantings, trail beautification, volunteer opportunities, and educational events. With the additions, the program needed a new name. In 2018, Precinct 4’s Legacy Trees Project was officially born.

“Legacy trees are not just historic trees. They are also heirloom fruit and nut trees that will one day provide nourishment for residents and wildlife along the trails,” says Carlton.

Today, more than 1,700 legacy trees grow along the Spring Creek and Cypress Creek greenways.

“Several native edibles have already produced crops and provided a habitat for nesting birds,” says Carlton. “Just the other day, a tree we collected in 2015 showed five maturing acorns. I think this speaks to the overall purpose of the project.”

Become a Volunteer

Want to get involved? Become a volunteer! Precinct 4’s Legacy Trees Project offers opportunities to plant trees along the greenways. Precinct 4 residents can also volunteer to care for native edibles or historic trees.

For more information, call 281-353-8100 or email Legacy Trees at

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12 Mar
By: Communications 0

Plant Selection Made Easy

Shopping for plants and flowers can be overwhelming and exhausting without taking a few simple steps to prepare.

  • First, spend some time in your yard making notes about the location, lighting, and what will complement your home best.
    • Figure out where you want to add some color and texture. Be sure to consider your existing foundation shrubs and trees.
    • Pay attention to the sunlight pattern in the area to narrow your focus for the plants you need to purchase.
    • Think about the color and exterior of your home to enhance the curb appeal. If you have a light brick or paint, consider dark, vibrant flowers that will bring contrast to your landscape. If you have a dark exterior, perhaps try pastels or even white flowers to pop against the soil or mulch.
  • Stay focused while shopping.
    • Bring your notes with you while shopping to stay focused and allow for a more enjoyable experience while exploring the many plant options.
    • Avoid spending time looking at plants that won’t work for you. For example, if you have zero shade in your backyard, concentrate on the numerous sun-loving options for the best results.
    • Be sure to note the full growth potential of any plants you select to ensure there’s plenty of room in your landscape.
  • Then, follow this concept: thrillers, fillers, and spillers!
    • Thrillers are the tallest and showiest flowers that should go in back of your flower bed.
    • Then, choose fillers that will grow shorter than your thrillers to add bright, fun colors to your landscape. You can select a few varieties of fillers for even more diversity.
    • And finally, choose spillers (plants that mound or stay small) to go in the front along the edge of your flower bed or container.

The most important part of shopping for plants is to have fun! Gardening is all about trying new plants and experimenting with different gardening practices to enjoy the most success.

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