By Minnie Payne
Situated in the middle of the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex are about 100 acres, adjoining almost 400 acres of Cross Timbers habitat on U.S. Army Corps of Engineer land and almost 20 miles of trails on the Walnut Grove National Recreation Trail, that are a unique ecosystem which few people know exist. The Bob Jones Nature Center and Preserve (BJNCP) is located in Southlake, population 26,600.
BJNCP Executive Director Emily Galpin says that the center wants to get people outdoors and educate them about nature and the environment.
“We try to reach all ages and provide them with a place to which they can connect with an ecosystem of flora and fauna,” Galpin comments.
The nature center was named for John Dalford “Bob” Jones. According to Ancestory.com he “was born June 26, 1850 and was brought to Texas by his slave master, Leazur Alvis Jones … from Fort Smith, Arkansas …. (also) Traveling with Leazur Jones were his slave wife, Elizabeth, and children… Bob Jones was freed in Texas near the Medlin community where he stayed in a small house and herded a few sheep as a means of livelihood. He obtained 50 acres of bottom land on which he began a farming and livestock business.” Over time, Bob and his wife, Almeady Chisum, and their 10 children expanded the farm until they owned almost 2,000 acres.
Located near the headwaters of the Trinity River system, the Jones’ Denton Creek area land and its surroundings was selected as the site of a dam in order to control flooding and build a water reservoir. The Federal Government acquired much of the Jones family land that was to be covered by the future lake and after the dam was completed in 1952 and the lake created, most of the remaining Jones family property was sold. In the 1990’s, the City of Southlake decided to purchase land for a park. Some of the acquired property included Bob and Almeady Jones’ original farm, so the city council unanimously decided to honor his family by naming the parkland Bob Jones Park. ( Bender Quail Creek photo Bob Jones Nature Center)
There is no fee for entering the park, which is open from dawn to dusk, seven days a week. The City of Southlake owns the building and park, and BJNCP, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, works with the city. Plans are to hire more staff, which will be city supported. The staff works with volunteers and you may contact Emily Galpin, 817-939-1110, firstname.lastname@example.org, for volunteer opportunities.
According to Southlake’s Director of Community Services Chris Tribble, the estimated annual cost for operating BJNCP is $140,000. “The BJNCP is a fantastic destination for outdoor learning and exploration of the Cross Timbers ecosystem,” says Tribble. “It’s a jewel in Southlake’s backyard that has been preserved for generations to discover and enjoy.”
While horses are not allowed on the preserve trails, equestrians, using their own horses, as well as hikers, utilize the Walnut Grove National Recreation Trail. Many educational classes are offered for a fee, and certified instructors, contracted by the City of Southlake, are paid 80 percent of the student ratio. A photography class is also taught by a professional photographer. You may visit www.bjnc.org for a listing of all classes and activities. ( Photo: Flowers-Joe Lopano-adult level-2007)
“A bluebird trail, with many bluebird boxes, is a popular offering, but it’s difficult to pinpoint any one activity/event, as everyone likes different things,” Galpin says. “We have several upcoming family oriented events such as the Harvest Hike Hooting Owl event and the Bird on the Run event, wherein people run or walk.” ( Easter Blue Bird - photo Bob Jones Nature Center )
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Minnie Payne is the food reporter for Green Source DFW, focusing on DFW stories that include agriculture, sustainable wines, green grocers, community gardens, green restaurants, etc. She’s open to all food story suggestions from readers. She was a writer for Pegasus News and presently freelances for Living Magazine and Frisco Style Magazine.