Still time to save the Fort Worth Prairie Park

06/26/2014 6:56 PM

06/26/2014 6:57 PM

Like a tumultuous play at the Jubilee Theater, after eight years in “Act I” we’re now entering Act II for the Fort Worth Prairie Park.

Looking beyond moral and government responsibility differences with the Texas General Land Office, which could have found a fiduciary and ecologically favorable way to help preserve the Prairie Park (they haven’t turned the Alamo into “Alamo Shopping Mall”), the GLO has sold our last wild prairie, 1,722 acres, to a Canadian developer, the Walton Group.

Recently, folks from The Nature Conservancy and Great Plains Restoration Council had an engaging introductory conversation with Walton in Dallas. We asked that approximately 560 acres west of Old Granbury Road be preserved as wilderness prairie as part of a larger green-designed master plan — a win-win-win for the prairie, their economic returns, and Fort Worth.

Our network of ecologists, teachers and other professionals, including Fort Worth’s esteemed sustainable landscape architect Michael Bennett, who did Allen’s Montgomery Farm north of Dallas, are ready to help.

Walton’s slogan is “Appreciate the Land.”

If Walton preserves this core ecological heart, where all those years of youth work and exuberant public expression took place, this tract can be added to Phase I, the 232 creekside acres acquired earlier from the GLO by an adjacent landowner and undergoing a conservation easement, as well as U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lands to the north that GPRC’s “Restoration Not Incarceration” crews would help restore.

This would create a wild prairie-and-creeks preserve of more than 1,000 acres, large enough to protect much of the park’s exceptional biodiversity and Monarch butterfly and grassland bird migrations, and large enough to still offer people a couple-mile hike through prairie sun, wind, grass and blue sky — Fort Worth’s heritage.

On this pristine westside parcel, stories run deep at Big Bluestem Hill, Monarch Cathedral, Prairie Crawfish Wetlands, Ancient Buffalo Grove, Lightning Strike Tree, Fossil Creek, Fort Worth Prairie Barrens, Limestone Seep, Comanche Rim, Carbon Cutbank (which shows 8,000 years of C02 sequestered in the soil roots), Sky High Creek and more.

Legendary histories of American Indians, Anglo-Americans and African Americans are embedded.

And over the last decade, new stories and people’s lives — from Morningside Middle, Dunbar and Southwest to Lily B. Clayton, Country Day, TCU and more, from AIDS Outreach Center and local churches to BRIT, City Hall and the State Legislature — have been woven into the tallgrass.

Make no mistake, as vast as Texas’ wild prairies once were, the Fort Worth Prairie Park is priceless in its rarity.

On the Fort Worth Prairie Park, you can walk through wild grassland to get to Sky High Creek, which floods during storms. On dry days we’ve often taken struggling kids such as a young boy whose big sister was cutting herself.

Kids can’t believe how “sky high” this little creek rises, how pristine and clean it is. Next to the Ancient Buffalo Grove and Lightning Strike Tree, they grasp the power of the wild prairie at the same time we help them see the power of their own lives to rise high, clean and strong.

The Fort Worth Prairie Park is not dead yet. It can still become an art-inspired world-legacy project for prairies and people, like El Yunque Rainforest in Puerto Rico does for rainforests.

The Chisholm Trail toll road implemented our green design request that includes dark skies lighting and protective management.

If Walton will work with Fort Worth, perhaps Act II of the Fort Worth Prairie Park won’t take a tragic turn, and Act III can offer life and hope for thousands of years.

Jarid Manos is an American writer and founder & CEO of Great Plains Restoration Council. www.gprc.org

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