Dallas County: Two Audubon Centers Stand

September 27, 2011 by · Comments Off 


By Ashley Stainton

Map to Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center (Photo courtesy of tx.audubon.org)

Two Dogwood trees stand 16 miles south of downtown Dallas in Cedar Hill. These trees, normally found in the Pinewoods and post oak belts of Texas, are far from home.

It was 18 years ago when David Hurt, an amateur naturist, found the rare trees. His discovery was only the beginning to what would ultimately become the Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center.

The center, which opened on Sept. 9, is special to Dallas residents because it offers them a place to learn, explore and be one with some of nature’s most unique flora and fauna.

It also makes Dallas County the only place in the country to house two Audubon centers.

“The National Audubon Society welcomes this beautiful addition to our network of Audubon centers across the country,” said David Yarnold, president and CEO of Audubon.

The conservation areas, known as Audubon centers, are non-profit environmental organizations dedicated to conservation and as it turns out, Dallas County is perfect for Audubon locations. The area has both the physical and ecological characteristics that cater to Audubon development.

“Not only does this illustrate the surprising natural diversity we have in our area, but it also demonstrates the strength of our philanthropic community in that it can support two such unique facilities,” said Patty McGill, Dogwood Audubon Center director.

The Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center was a preservation project, explained Ross Coulter, who works with the center. The land’s topography made it a rare find, where animals and plants that would not usually coexist can.

“What makes it so unique is the combination of the black prairie land and Austin chalk that meet in this area,” said T Hanson, nature director at the Dogwood Center.

In addition to Hurt’s discovery of the Dogwood trees, there were many more unique finds in the over 200 acres of land, including orchids, Western Ashe Juniper and Shimmering Oaks.

“The Audubon center was 12 years in the imagination and making,” said McGill.

The Dogwood Center, although the second to be built in Dallas County, was the first to be planned. The Trinity River Center opened in October of 2008. It is located on over 6,000 acres southeast of downtown Dallas in the Greater Trinity Forests, the largest urban hardwood forest in the United States.

“The Trinity River Audubon Center was a reclamation project,” said Coulter.

Unlike the Dogwood Audubon Center, the Trinity River Center was not established because of its already beautiful landscape. The area was once an illegal dumping ground. It was not until Dallas residents approved a $246 million bond program that the land was reclaimed.

A Trinity River Nature Center learning station. (Photo by Ashley Stainton)

The Trinity River Corridor Project, a Dallas public works project, funded the Trinity River Audubon Center. Both the City of Cedar Hill and Audubon Dallas, who partnered to provided the over $7 million needed to finish the facilities, funded the Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center.

Though the centers began very differently, they both serve unique functions and are dedicated to promoting the protection and preservation of Texas’ land and natural species.

“Both purposes meet Audubon’s goals of connecting people with the outdoors and offering unique opportunities to view various types of natural environments,” said McGill.

Benjamin Jones, state director of education for Audubon Texas, helped establish a successful education program at the Trinity River location and is now helping the Dogwood Center do the same.

“It all about connecting people with nature,” said Jones.

The programs established at the centers appeal to all ages and offer visitors a wide range of activities, from bird watching to nature view trails. There are also opportunities for children to enjoy school fieldtrips, summer camps and classes.

“We’re just bring them outside and showing them science,” said Faizel Ismail, education manager. “It isn’t just a boring classroom, science can be an adventure.”

As many as 100 children a day are expected to visit the Dogwood Center and fieldtrips are likely to be booked for the school year, explained Ismail.

A Trinity River Nature Center learning station. (Photo by Ashley Stainton)

Schools are not the only ones taking advantage of the learning opportunities Audubon has to offer, non-profit organization are also joining in on the chance.

“These centers are a great learning tool,” explained Liz Rich of Big Thought, a non-profit organization in Dallas that focuses on giving children access to learning opportunities.

The advantage for Dallas having not one, but two, Audubon centers is a testament to those in the community who made it possible, said McGill.

“Audubon was founded on volunteers, banding together and deciding to make something happen,” she said.

Map to Trinity River Nature Center. (Photo courtesy of trinityriveraudubon.org)