Garrison Spring is so quiet and peaceful that some residents of Ozark don’t even know it's there.
The garden is situated at the end of East Jackson Street, where the blacktop narrows and you drive past grazing cows and a canopy of trees to reach a hidden spot where people come for a moment away from the hustle and noise of the world.
“It’s open to the public. Come back sometime,” Mary Lou Braswell said in a 2014 interview with the Christian County Headliner News.
On Feb. 22, 2018, the city of Ozark entered into al lease agreement with property owner Mary Lou Braswell for a piece of the Garrison Spring Garden property.
“It’s not something you can keep to yourself,” Braswell said in 2014. “We sure wouldn’t go to all this trouble if it were just for us. It wouldn’t be worth it.”
The garden has daffodils, lilies, peonies and other flowers. Gardeners, bird watchers, hikers, runners, cyclists, outdoor enthusiasts and picnickers all come to check out Garrison Spring.
Braswell and her husband, Ernest, purchased the property more than 25 years ago. It was once owned by Martha Jane Garrison, the grandmother of well-known Ozark artist Howard Garrison, who founded Riverside Inn.
The Ernest and Mary Lou Braswell Trust owns 9.8 acres of land surrounding the natural spring. The trust assumed ownership of the property on April 1, 1995, according to records from the Christian County Assessor’s Office. Shortly after, they made their garden available to the public from sunup to sundown, with a few rules to follow that are posted on signs visible from the road.
Ernest died in February 2013.
On Sept. 7, the Ozark Board of Aldermen voted 6-0 to accept the first of what it hopes will be two grants to fund the purchase of part of the Garrison Spring property. The city applied for and received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Community Forest and Open Space Program for $184,000.
Ozark applied for two grants in effort to secure funding to acquire property to maintain natural space near the historic downtown portion of Ozark in the geographic center of the city.
“We adopted the master parks plan a couple of years ago, and one of the things that was mentioned in it was quiet natural areas and trails,” Ozark Director of Parks and Recreation Samantha Payne said.
The USDA grant requires a 50-percent match on the city’s park, which Payne said will eventually be covered through another grant to be announced and brought before the Ozark Board of Aldermen at a later date.
“We did actually receive the other grant for the 50-percent match, but that paperwork is not done yet,” Payne said. “We have to go forward with this one to get the paperwork in, and then there is other paperwork that we will have to get in for the other 50-percent match.”
The idea is for Garrison Spring to continue to work as a tucked-away destination, with some more permanent preservation and protections in the future.
“While the lease provides limited use of the space, the city desired to secure the area in a more permanent fashion, and therefore researched funding options for the purchase of Garrison Spring Garden,” Payne wrote in a memo to the Ozark Board of Aldermen.
It wasn’t long after the Braswells retired to Ozark that they decided to open their private property up to the public.
The old house burned about 25 years ago, Braswell said, after being struck by lightning. But the gate, flanked by giraffe-rock pillars, that led to the front door remains. A red barn on the property was reportedly built in the 1880s. A smokehouse on the property once housed many of Martha Jane Garrison’s weaving looms. She was known selling what she wove in order to support herself and five children. The Garrison family also sold water from the spring to the Frisco Railway, which ran the Chadwick Flyer train through Ozark.
Ward 1 Alderman Nathan Posten spoke of Payne’s effort to work with the Braswell Trust to secure the grant funding that will help protect Garrison Spring in the future.
“Well done,” Posten said. “I know this was a big one. I know what you put into this one.”
Garrison Spring will still be a place of peace and respite.
“I want people to know this is a place they can come and get rest, find peace. It’s a place that can soothe them. A place to enjoy a picnic. A place to stop and think and be quiet,” Mary Lou Braswell said. “It’s a place we’ve always been very, very grateful for. It’s a wonderful place to live.”