‘Texan by Nature’ certified Ecopark at Dallas Center a teaching tool for public, industry, governments
By Gabe Saldana, 956-408-5040, email@example.com
DALLAS — A 7-acre ecopark in far north Dallas will demonstrate how green infrastructure and resource-efficient building practices contribute to sustainable urban and suburban development.
The Benny J. Simpson Ecopark, on campus at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center, 17360 Coit Rd., begins welcoming visitors in late 2019.
The park features a roughly 3-acre rainwater detention pond originally designed by the Dallas center’s ecological engineering program. More than 140 native Texas plant species adorn the pond along with more than 50 historic trees originally planted by famed Texas A&M horticulturist Benny J. Simpson, a Dallas native.
“He was an early pioneer in recognizing the environmental benefits of native Texas plants in cultivated landscapes,” said Clint Wolfe, program manager of Texas A&M AgriLife’s Water University program on water conservation and quality protection. In 2018, the program revitalized the ecopark with new native plantings, historic tree relocations and pond riparian reinforcements.
“We wanted to continue Benny’s legacy with these living installations,” Wolfe said.
A space for learning
The ecopark stands alongside the Dallas campus’ new, 10,000 square-foot Water Education Building. The teaching facility can host 300 visitors and serves as a demonstration space with water conserving fixtures and low-environmental-impact architectural design. Its 30,000-gallon rainwater harvesting cistern supplies the adjacent landscape, which filters the water before returning it to the watershed. It also provides non-potable water inside the building.
An additional 4 acres of restored Blackland prairie, which once served as agricultural research land, now provides valuable stormwater mitigation. Wildlife on the land include Cooper’s hawks, great horned owls, migrating monarch butterflies and other important pollinators and wildlife.
The facilities will be used to welcome the public, industry professionals and government leaders for instruction on implementing similar practices at any scale.
Certification and next steps
The ecopark project has garnered certification by Texan by Nature, founded by former First Lady Laura Bush. Texan by Nature aims to spur Texan-led conservation efforts that produce tangible benefits to people, prosperity and natural resources.
The Water University team and Texas Master Naturalists will create permanent exhibit signage around the prairie and pond, which will provide information on infrastructure, plants and wildlife inhabiting the acreage.