It is an axiom of the natural world that nature is dynamic. So, too, is the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge. In nature, dynamic change is usually the result of adaptation or evolution in response to larger-scale changes, such as a warming and drying climate. For the Nature Center, dynamic change is seen as a response to visitor needs.
Thanks to climate change, we’ve all experienced accelerated natural change, but at the Nature Center, we are also seeing an acceleration of developmental change. With the coming of fall, we have begun to witness the greatest, most concentrated set of changes in the Nature Center’s 58-year history.
The first developmental change began this past summer as the Friends of the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge broke ground on the construction of Bison Viewing Decks located along the north fence line of the East Pasture. With funding from the Ryan Foundation, H-E-B, and Anchor Construction, LLC, and design and installation provided by Anchor Construction, this project promises to provide a unique experience for Nature Center visitors. Two elevated platforms, the highest some 12 feet in the air, will provide not only better views of the resident bison herd but also a panoramic view of the entire Northeast Pasture as well as a large portion of the East Pasture. The platforms are connected by a wheelchair accessible walkway and ramp leading from an expanded and improved parking area located directly across from the Wild Plum Trail entrance on Buffalo Road.
The Bison Viewing Decks’ design mimics that of the Marty Leonard Lotus Marsh Boardwalk, guaranteeing the finished project will be a thing of beauty as well as function. Anchor Construction’s innovative design concept even includes the installation of a bison pasture “airlock” separating the East and Northeast Pastures, which will greatly facilitate bison pasture management. The airlock is located directly below the highest deck and, when open to allow bison herd movement, will allow visitors to have the bison herd pass below under their feet.
The second massive developmental change began in early October. The Nature Center received a $1.5 million grant from Texas Parks and Wildlife, which was matched with contributions from Facebook and the Friends as well as City of Fort Worth funds, including those generated at the admissions gate. These funds, totaling $3 million, the largest single project in the history of the Nature Center, will be adding approximately 600 linear feet of boardwalk, completing the historic “U” shape of the original boardwalk. In addition, funds will be used to expand and improve the parking lot, renovate and create accessible trails to both ends of the boardwalk, install interpretive signage and a permanent restroom facility, as well as add approximately a mile of new soft surface trail that will provide visitors with the opportunity to explore the area to the west of the boardwalk parking lot, an area that has been off-limits to visitors for more than 50 years. We are excited that the Fain Group, the contractor that built the first phase of the boardwalk in 2016, is working on this project as well, and we are eagerly anticipating dedicating the completed Marty Leonard Lotus Marsh Boardwalk in 2023.
Unfortunately, dynamic change is not painless. This fall, these dynamic changes have led to short-term area, road, and trail closures, and we ask our visitors to continue to abide by these closures to ensure everyone’s safety. We guarantee that, once reopened, you will be thrilled with the results.