Groundwork Dallas secures $175,000 in grants; preserve to be promoted as ecotourism destination
Five years of hard work has paid off in a big way for Casie Pierce as she watches her vision of an environmental improvement and protection project benefiting the Great Trinity Forest become a reality.
“I have spent the better part of the last five years organizing, planning, facilitating, overseeing and generally steering a new nonprofit that has become of the most challenging and yet rewarding things that I have ever done,” said Pierce in a fundraising letter she recently sent to potential supporters of Groundwork Dallas, Inc.
Although the group was incorporated only 18 months ago, it has already completed several projects benefiting the forest and its adjacent communities. Pierce and her team of volunteers have built trails within the forest and enhanced it with improvements to the preserve’s entrances.
“We have done some amazing projects in the last 18 months,” said Pierce in a telephone interview. “We’re getting a real good response.”
The 6,200-acre forest, which is owned by the city of Dallas, is the largest urban hardwood forest in the country. It is seven times larger than New York’s Central Park, and it is located just four miles from downtown Dallas. It contains millions of trees, including Texas buckeyes, pecans, walnuts, oaks, ash, cottonwoods, willows and redbuds. It has a large population of wildlife, including deer, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, beavers, nutria, rabbits, hawks and owls. In addition to the forest of trees, it features large prairie meadows that attract birds and butterflies.
Pierce, a lesbian and community activist whose neighborhood in southeast Dallas is located near one of the entrances to the forest, said the project got its initial boost from a $100,000 grant from the National Parks Service, a $50,000 grant from the City of Dallas and a $25,000 grant from the private foundation Operation Act, which was founded to sponsor clean-up efforts on the Trinity River. Operation Act’s founder died, and Pierce’s group took over its mission, she said.
A 24-member board of directors, of which Pierce is president, and a 17-member advisory board govern Groundwork Dallas.
“The ultimate goal is to help the city of Dallas realize the potential of the Great Trinity Forest to bring about sustainable economic development to the city’s long beleaguered Southern Sector through positive community partnerships using ecotourism,” Pierce said.
The mission of Groundwork Dallas will be realized by building nature trails, providing access to the forest and the river, revitalizing public places in the adjacent communities and educating people to help with improvements, Pierce said.
Pierce said residents who live near the entrances to the forest’s trails have praised the volunteers for their work and some have pitched in to help with the clean up: “It creates a sense of ownership for the people who live in the community. It makes people want to contribute.”
Pierce said the biggest challenge now is making residents of the Dallas area and other parts of Texas aware of the forest and its three hiking trails and other attractions.
There are three forest trails available for hiking. They are Gateway Trail at 6119 Scyene Road, Texas Buckeye Trail at 7000 Bexar St. and Sycamore/Dixon Trail at 3700 Dixon Ave.
Ron Kovatis, executive director of Groundwork Dallas, said the forest seems to be a mystery to most Dallas residents. He makes presentations to community groups about the forest and the project, and he leads tours of the trails.
“So few people realize the Great Trinity Forest is there,” Kovatis said. “They realize how lovely it is, and they are in shock and disbelief they didn’t know it was here. People get in here and say, “‘This is just amazing.’”
For information about the Great Trinity Forest and Groundwork Dallas visit:
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 19, 2007