In 1976, noted Texas ornithologist Warren Pulich conducted an evaluation of the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge for the National Park Service in support of an effort to list the Refuge as a National Natural Landmark. Dr Pulich wrote, “The Cross Timbers association found within the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge is one of the better examples of this type in Texas, and since much of this type is fast disappearing to various agricultural uses, good examples of Cross Timbers are becoming difficult to locate. The basic maintenance and preservation of this type within the Nature Center area is of significant value.” On November 24, 1980, the Nature Center was officially designated as a National Natural Landmark by Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus, based primarily on the significance of the Cross Timbers forest found on the Refuge. To date, the Nature Center is still the only National Natural Landmark in Texas owned by a municipality (the City of Fort Worth).
Earlier, in 1971, the Nature Center, then known as Greer Island Nature Center & Refuge, gained its first national recognition by being named the first Texas entry in the register of National Recreational Trails.
Accolades and honors became commonplace as people became increasingly aware of the Nature Center and its educational and land management programs. With the new millennium, we saw the Nature Center honored as a “Lone Star Land Steward” by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and as a “Heritage Tree Community” by the City of Fort Worth’s Urban Forestry Program. The year 2016 saw the Nature Center being named as a “Lone Star Legacy Park” by the Texas Recreation and Park Society and a “Frontline Park” by the City Park Alliance. In 2012, the Refuge’s paddling trail was named a “Texas State Paddling Trail,” and in 2020, our stretch of the West Fork of the Trinity River was listed as part of the Trinity River Water Trail, the first Texas paddling trail to receive “National Water Trail” designation.
This spring, the Nature Center received new honors as the Refuge, specifically the Cross Timbers forest featured in the National Natural Landmark evaluation, joined the Old-Growth Forest Network as the first Texas forest in the network. This collaboration is in recognition of the City of Fort Worth’s century-long commitment to preserving the area in its original post oak forest state. The celebratory ceremony was held in early May.
On Saturday, June 3, the Nature Center dedicated a statue to the Civilian Conservation Corps “boys” of Camp 1816, who laid the foundation of the Nature Center as we know it. The statue, the second official CCC statue in Texas, was donated by a local CCC supporter and will be mounted at the entry of Broadview Park, which was constructed by the CCC boys during their mid-1930s tenure in the Lake Worth area.
To me, it’s an honor to continue to maintain, protect, and preserve the land and resources that Fort Worth leaders thought worth preserving more than a century ago, and it is gratifying to know that other organizations, agencies, and individuals support our efforts on behalf of the land we call the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge.