We know that New York has Central Park and San Francisco has Golden Gate Park. But who knew that Dallas has the Great Trinity Forest, the largest urban bottomland hardwood forest in the nation? Until now, many Dallas residents didn’t know either, because this amazing, 6,000-acre forest in their backyard was largely inaccessible. Even worse, this area was better known to some for two illegal landfills, where fires once smoldered for more than 18 months.
In 1999 the City of Dallas launched an ambitious multibillion-dollar program to restore the Trinity River Corridor, including the Great Trinity Forest and the landfill site. Dallas Parks and Recreation then teamed up with Audubon to build the Trinity River Audubon Center at the restored site, providing visitor access to both the forest and the Trinity River. In October the new Center opened, thanks to the effort of hundreds of volunteers and the generous support of foundations, corporations, and the citizens of Dallas.
This spectacular, 21,000-square-foot facility, one of the first LEED-certified buildings in Dallas, will be a gateway to more than 25 miles of hiking and biking trails that weave through the forest and along the river. While the Center’s educational programs will serve primarily residents of this urban community, the wide array of recreational opportunities available there make it a destination for people throughout the Dallas–Fort Worth area.
Audubon has been a leader in nature-based education since we opened our first Audubon Centers in Maine and Connecticut some 80 years ago. Now there is a new urgency to our cause. Children today recreate indoors, spending more and more time in front of televisions and computers. For the first time ever we are producing a generation of children who do not play in and explore the outdoors the way previous generations did. As a result, many of today’s kids lack the personal connections to nature and the experiences so vital to forging the concern and commitment that drive future stewardship.
Author Richard Louv, in his acclaimed book Last Child in the Woods, coined the phrase “nature-deficit disorder” to describe an array of health, education, and environmental-awareness problems afflicting children who lack outdoor experiences. He launched the Children and Nature Network, a coalition of people working on environmental, health, and education issues who recognize the importance of outdoor activities for children and promote efforts to reconnect kids with nature.
Audubon is continuing to do its part. Most recently, we’ve focused on launching Audubon Centers in urban areas where children have the least opportunity to experience nature close to home. In April we opened the Seward Park Audubon Center in the heart of Seattle’s south side. And new Audubon Centers are currently under construction in downtown Phoenix and Columbus, Ohio. Our total network includes 55 Audubon Centers in communities across the country. These are places where children and families can begin to discover the natural world, create lifelong bonds with wildlife and wild places, and start on the journey toward conserving such places in the future. You can read more about the Trinity River Audubon Center and our other Centers at Audubon.org. We hope that will inspire you to visit an Audubon Center near you, or to just go outdoors and enjoy nature.
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