The Judge Charles Rose Community Park in Southern Dallas is built around a three-acre remnant of blackland prairie. Photo by Jason Flowers.
Sept. 30, 2023
A former vacant lot in Dallas will soon be a place where residents can enjoy a piece of Dallas's ecological history.
On Saturday, more than 100 volunteers teamed up to help restore one of the last remnants of blackland prairie in the city.
The prairie preservation project is part of the new Judge Charles R. Rose Community Park under construction in Southern Dallas.
“We planted over 200 native seedlings and plants,” said Sofia Hernandez, community conservation leader for Trust for Public Land. “We also broadcast native seeds throughout the property.”
The seedlings were harvested from the Nature Conservancy’s Clymer Meadow and the Texas Conservation Alliance’s nursery at the Dallas Zoo, said Hernandez.
Volunteers gathered last Saturday to help restore prairie plants to Judge Rose Community Park in Dallas. Photo courtesy of Trust for Public Land.
The 40-acre Judge Rose Community Park is part of the Five Mile Creek Greenbelt Master Plan. The plan calls for a network of parks and dozens of miles of trails across Oak Cliff, following Five Mile Creek and its tributaries.
The project is part of an effort by the city of Dallas to increase access to green space in underserved communities.
The Greenbelt Master Plan includes the creation of three new parks in Dallas’s southern sector and the completion of 17 miles of trails.
“Currently, only about half of Five Mile Creek residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park and the need for quality outdoor spaces for exercise, socializing and recreation could not be greater,” said Robert Kent, Texas State Director for Trust for Public Land.
Map of the Five Mile Creek Greenbelt Master Plan. Courtesy of Trust for Public Land. Woody Branch Park is below B. South Oak Cliff Renaissance Park is above C. Judge Rose Park is below F. See inset map.
The three new parks featured in the plan are the Judge Rose Community Park, which is set to open in 2024, South Oak Cliff Renaissance Park, which opened last year, and Woody Branch Park, which is still in the design phase.
The South Oak Cliff Renaissance Park is a 1.8-green space built on neglected urban land. The park is decked out with solar-powered lighting and free Wifi.
The 82-acre Woody Branch Park is being designed on "high quality" wooded property as a natural area.
Meanwhile, after the new trail additions, the Five Mile Creek Trail will extend from DART’s Westmoreland Station east to Joppa Preserve.
More than 200 native seedlings and plants were planted last weekend. Photo courtesy of Trust for Public Land.
Three acres of Judge Rose Park have been identified as blackland prairie. Many Texas prairie blooms have been spotted on the property, including prairie-false foxglove, blazing star, basketflower and firewheel.
“We purchased the land in 2019 and one of the things that struck us was the wildflowers,” said Kent. “In April, May and June, it’s a riot of colors. We saw this was really worth preserving.”
According to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 99 percent of original blackland prairie has been lost to development, row-crop agriculture and overgrazing.
“We need to both protect the remnant prairie that remains but also restore and expand prairie habitat where possible.”
The park’s plan, which was designed with input from hundreds of residents, includes a scenic walking trail, a playground, pavilion and picnic area. In addition, State Farm is funding an outdoor classroom with WiFi and solar powered lights.
“The classroom will have commanding view of downtown,” said Kent. “It will be a wonderful place for the Highland Hills community and other local residents to enjoy.”
Juaquin Jordan, State Farm administrative services director, said he was proud to be a partner in the project.
“Through our Century of Good grant, Trust for Public Land created an innovative outdoor classroom and this recent wildflower seed planting and other native landscaping projects will help restore native grassland prairies in our area and contribute to the health and well-being of Southern Dallas residents.”
According to Brandon Belcher, North Texas preserves manager for The Nature Conservancy, connecting people to prairies helps create local preservation champions.
“Prairies are important places and people who live near them should have opportunities to help connect and care for them,” said Belcher. “The work done today at Judge Rose Community Park will go a long way to creating this type of care and compassion for our native prairies in North Texas.”
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