Prairie festival draws nature lovers to Tandy Hills

04/26/2014 7:28 PM

05/05/2014 10:51 AM

Nine-year-old Briana Miller leaned forward to study a patch of Texas blue stars, a purplish-blue native wildflower.

Sniffing a blossom, Miller inhaled and smiled.

“I’m a nature girl,” said Miller, of Burleson. “I like flowers and bugs and being outside. You can’t keep me inside.”

Miller was right at home Saturday at Prairie Fest at Tandy Hills Natural Area, a 160-acre indigenous prairie that boasts a diverse collection of native wildflowers. Just five minutes from downtown, Tandy features rolling hills, hiking trails and 548 species of native wildflowers.

Celebrating the natural world, Prairie Fest offers wildflower tours, storytelling, nature hikes, live music and food vendors.

The festival first began in 2006 as a protest against natural gas drilling. When Don Young, who lives across the street from Tandy, heard of plans to drill for natural gas underneath the prairie, he gathered like-minded friends and community leaders in his front yard.

“No one even knew this place existed in 2006,” said Young, who also formed the nonprofit Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area. “We made sure to change that.”

The festival now draws close to 5,000 visitors, yet organizers strive to maintain its relaxed environment and commitment to environmental stewardship. Live music is powered by solar energy, and 100 percent of materials are recycled or composted. Vendors offer demonstrations of organic gardening.

Camera in hand, Andrew Postell joined a guided wildflower tour. Postell said he is drawn to the natural beauty of Tandy.

“This is the only place in Fort Worth you can find this sort of natural beauty smack-dab in the middle of the city,” said Postell, who lives in Fort Worth. “It’s pretty incredible.”

Prairies once covered the United States, but most of the land was turned into farms or developed, said Anne Alderfer, a Master Naturalist who gave tours Saturday. Now less than 1 percent of the land remains prairie, she said, making it the most endangered ecosystem in the United States.

Tandy remained prairie land simply because it was deemed too hilly to farm, Alderfer added.

Proceeds from Prairie Fest now pay for Fort Worth elementary school students to take field trips to Tandy, Young said.

“Tandy Hills is so unique. There is no other place like this in the state of Texas,” he said. “I’m not going to be here forever, and I want to make sure this land is protected for my grandchildren.”

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