By Rita Cook     

While folks have been waiting for years for the opening of the Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center in Cedar Hill and the eco-friendly implications such a place represents, the C.E. Doolin Visitor’s Center also on the grounds is also creating sustainability from the inside out as well.  The 6,000-square-foot C.E. Doolin Visitor’s Center is the anchor for the Audubon Center overall and according to Lee Papert, Director of Marketing & Development for both the Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center and the Trinity River Audubon Center it is in complete compliance with the Audubon’s overall mission of “green.”
“The center is a sustainably built structure,” he says “from the architectural and systems design to the selection of eco-safe paints, sealants and other materials.  It was designed to achieve LEED certification through measures such as using recycled materials where possible, minimizing storm water runoff, non-toxic and formaldehyde-free materials, energy efficient and significant natural lighting.”
In one of the more unique and significant elements of the DCAC design, the visitor’s center is situated above a concrete “basin” that once housed a telecommunications tower and antenna.  Pappert says that rather than incur the expense and ecological damage that would result from removing the basin, the center decided to work with the unique structure as it existed building a garden and deck inside it, accessible by a winding walkway.

With the official ribbon cutting this Friday, September 9, National Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold, Dogwood Canyon founder David Hurt and local Cedar Hill officials will be on hand to cut the ribbon and dedicate the Center. This will be followed by a weekend of free admission and workshops, tours, nature play activities and puppet shows for all.

One of the reasons for establishing the center in the first place is to educate people of all ages about the diversity of plants and animals in Dogwood Canyon and how nature and humans can live together for a healthy future. 

“The true “stars” of the center are the miles of trails that take visitors through the forest and throughout the canyon,” says Pappert.  “At opening, the David and Kim Hurt Trail will run for approximately 1.5 miles along the west side of the Canyon and includes several scenic overlooks.  A half-mile ADA accessible trail is opening soon.  Long-term, DCAC plans to offer a total of more than four miles of trails.   A paved county trail has also been restored, connecting the center with the Cedar Mountain Preserve next door.”
Audubon embraces the idea that 80% of its programs should be conducted outside so the Center offers a number of opportunities to experience outdoors.  In addition to the trails there are children’s nature play area and picnic tables.  Since Dogwood Canyon is part of the White Rock Escarpment and represents the far northern reaches of the Texas Hill Country the canyon contains the widest variety of rare species in North Texas as plants and animals from east, west and Central Texas converge there.

“The vision for Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center began to take shape in 1999 when amateur naturalist David Hurt, out on a nature hike, discovered a stand of flowering dogwoods in the canyon—a rare and remarkable find, as the dogwood is common to the Pineywoods and post oak belts of Texas, but is generally absent from growing naturally in shallow clay soils of the limestone regions.  This was the first of many rare combinations of flora and fauna discoveries in the canyon, including orchids, Western Ashe Juniper, Eastern Red Cedar, Red and Shimmer Oaks, Mexican Buckeye and Eve’s Necklace,” Pappert says.
The canyon is also home to several types of birds, such as the Painted Bunting, Black-Capped Vireo and Golden-Cheeked Warbler, the latter two of which are endangered.  Other wildlife found in the area includes bobcats, coyotes, lizards and snakes.
“The Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center is bringing regional and national awareness of the unique natural environment that we are blessed to have in Cedar Hill,” says Cedar Hill City Councilmember Cory Spillman.  “The City is proud to partner in protecting this large natural preserve in coordination with Audubon Dallas.”

Rita Cook is an award winning journalist who writes or has written for the Dallas Morning News, Focus Daily News, Waxahachie Daily Light, Dreamscapes Travel Magazine, Porthole, Core Media, Fort Worth Star Telegram and many other publications in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago.  With five books published, her latest release is “A Brief History of Fort Worth” published by History Press.  You can contact her at