For nearly 50 years, bison have roamed the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge. The herd began in 1973 with a donation of three bison from the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge’s first bison calf, a heifer, was born on May 21, 1974. The herd currently consists of one adult bull, 12 cows, and five calves that were born this year.
Management of the bison includes rotating the herd through the five pastures where they reside to ensure the land remains a healthy ecosystem for the bison and other wildlife. That’s why the bison are not always visible during this rotation. This limits the opportunity for visitors to see one of their favorite attractions at the park and for the Friends and Nature Center staff to emphasize the importance of the bison through educational programs and events.
To address this, the Nature Center needs a space that offers visitors and students a greater opportunity to view the bison on its native land. The herd is the only one of its kind in North Texas, making it more important than ever to offer more opportunities to experience and learn about this historic mammal. The Nature Center, along with the Friends, has long discussed creating a space for visitors and school groups to view the bison eight months out of the year.
The Friends and the Nature Center recently met to try to develop the best space for this purpose. The resulting concept is two viewing decks overlooking the East and Northeast pastures. The first deck visitors will encounter from the parking lot will be 10 feet by 10 feet and stand four feet high. The second deck will be 30 feet by 20 feet, with a height of 11 feet, six inches. The native trees located on the site of the second deck will be incorporated into the design to create a natural canopy of shade.
The $450,000 project is made possible through the generosity of the Ryan Foundation and H-E-B. Watch for project updates soon!