Marty Leonard Lotus Marsh Boardwalk by Curtis Craven
For the Future
The Friends of the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge has made a major financial impact on the Nature Center over the years. Recognizing the importance of this urban park in providing access to nature in this rapidly growing part of North Texas, the Friends will continue to support the Nature Center through major capital improvements to preserve and protect it for future generations.
Rusty Blackhaw by Trinity Arts Photo Club
Some of Our Recent Projects
Bison Viewing Deck
The Bison Viewing Deck, the first experience of its kind in the North Texas area, offers a new perspective from which to view the bison. It’s also a great perch from which to do some bird watching. The 700-foot-long series of ramps and decks gradually increases in elevation, stopping along the way at a five-foot-high deck that overlooks one of the bison pastures, peaking at the second deck, which provides a 14-foot-high view of two bison pastures. The bison rotate through five different pastures throughout the year, so when you visit, be sure to ask gate staff where the bison are currently residing. The project was made possible through donations from the Ryan Foundation, H-E-B, Anchor Construction, LLC, and the Friends of the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge.
In September 2020, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department awarded a $1.5 million Urban Outdoor Recreation Grant to the City of Fort Worth Park & Recreation Department to complete the restoration of the Marty Leonard Lotus Marsh Boardwalk. The City matched the grant with $1.2 million in City funds, and the Friends contributed $300,000 through a generous donation from Facebook. The project is the largest funded capital project to occur at the Nature Center in 50 years. Improvements will include replacing the original collapsed wooden boardwalk, extending accessible concrete trail, restoring native vegetation and habitat, installing site furnishings and interpretive signage, constructing a solar-powered restroom, and rehabilitating the existing parking area.
Greer Island Trail Improvements
Improvements at Greer Island were completed ahead of schedule in 2020. Funded by a $200,000 Recreational Trails Grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and ultimately made possible by more than $150,000 in required matching funds raised by the Friends, the project expanded and improved the parking lot at the Greer Island trailhead, installed new restroom facilities, upgraded the trail leading to Greer Island, and stabilized portions of the banks along the trail that had experienced significant erosion. Engineering firm Weaver Consultants Group LLC donated time for permitting and design. The improvements allow visitors to enjoy this part of the Refuge even more.
Lotus Marsh Pavilion
The new Lotus Marsh Pavilion was completed in 2020. Funded by $90,000 from the Sid W. Richardson Foundation and H-E-B and a donation of time from architect Norman D. Ward, the Pavilion (formerly known as the Amphitheater) has expanded educational opportunities at the Nature Center due to its close proximity to the wetlands at the Lotus Marsh Boardwalk. It provides a covered space for programming and field trips, connecting more children and families to nature. Norman Ward won the AIA Fort Worth Chapter’s 2020 AIA Fort Worth Studio Award for his architectural renderings of the project. The award noted how “the simple structure aims to provide a gathering place while also complementing the natural setting.”
Virtual Learning Equipment
The Meta Alice Keith Bratten Foundation awarded the Friends a $4,500 grant to purchase virtual learning equipment for future education programs. In addition, the grant helped purchase iPads to allow the Friends to modernize the gift shop at the Hardwicke Interpretive Center and more easily collect membership data and revenue from those who want to join the Friends while visiting the Nature Center.
A $25,000 grant from the North Texas Community Foundation’s Anita Berry Martin Memorial Fund provided a new greenhouse, storage building, and rainwater system for the Nature Center’s native plants program, Native Neighborhoods. The program routinely gives native plants to Fort Worth residents. Greenhouse volunteers have donated nearly 8,000 hours of time and expertise, transplanted nearly 11,000 native plants, and offered almost 1,000 of those plants to Fort Worth residents through Native Neighborhoods. Adjacent to the haybarn and bison-handling facility, the greenhouse compound features a 26-by-28-foot greenhouse, 30-by-30-foot shade structure, and 12-by-24-foot storage shed with attached covered area.
Camp Paddle & Cast
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Nature Center offered a summer program known as Camp Paddle & Cast to inner-city youth who had little or no opportunity to immerse themselves in nature. The program was offered through the City of Fort Worth’s network of community centers and, over the years, introduced hundreds of youth to the joys of the outdoors. After budget cuts and other factors led to discontinuation of the program, Camp Paddle & Cast returned to the Nature Center in July 2017, allowing youth to spend a night under the stars learning the basics of camping, fishing, and paddling. By getting to know and appreciate the natural world, the kids acquire new confidence and a stronger sense of place. The program, funded by the Friends, is available at no cost.