Local officials and invited guests will cut the ribbon at the new Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center (DCAC) on Thursday, September 8. The new center makes Dallas County, also home to the Trinity River Audubon Center, the only county in the country served by two Audubon centers.
The center and its beautiful 205-acre natural surroundings will then open for a free weekend of fun and festivities on September 10 and 11.
“The National Audubon Society welcomes this beautiful addition to our network of Audubon Centers across the country, including two in Dallas County,” said Audubon CEO & President David Yarnold. “We look forward to furthering our commitment to reach diverse communities at this wonderful new facility.”
Patty McGill, center director, said, “The Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center at Cedar Hill showcases one of the most unique natural settings in the country. We are excited for the public, especially families and young children, to visit Dogwood Canyon and begin taking advantage of the wonderful programs and hiking trails we have to offer. Together with the Trinity River Audubon Center, Dogwood Canyon makes North Texas a key destination for those interested in connecting with nature.”
Allison Thompson, executive director of the Cedar Hill Economic Development Corporation said, “Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center at Cedar Hill is another wonderful addition to Cedar Hill and will help draw visitors to what is becoming a ‘hot spot’ in southwestern Dallas County.”
A Rare Find
Located 16 miles south of downtown Dallas, Dogwood Canyon is part of the White Rock Escarpment, where species from east and west converge. As a result, the Canyon is the only place in the world where one can find, for example, the Black-chinned hummingbird of west Texas nesting in the flowering dogwood tree of east Texas.
The vision for Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center began to take shape in 1999 when amateur naturalist David Hurt discovered a stand of flowering dogwoods in the canyon—a remarkable find, as dogwood are generally absent from shallow clay soils of 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. Birds include the Painted Bunting, as well as the Black-Capped Vireo and Golden-Cheeked Warbler, both of which are endangered.
Embracing the Forest
DCAC is anchored by the 6,000 square foot C.E. Doolin Visitor’s Center, which was designed by Gary Cunningham of Dallas’ Cunningham Architects. In keeping with the Audubon mission, the center is a sustainably built structure, from the architectural design to the selection of materials, including eco-safe paints and sealants. The Center was designed to achieve LEED Silver certification.
In one of the more unique elements of the DCAC design, the visitor’s center is situated above a concrete “basin” that used to house an old telecommunications tower and antenna. Rather than incur expense and ecological damage by removing the basin, landscape architect Mesa Design Group decided to work with the unique structure, building a garden and deck down inside it, accessible by a winding walkway.
Inside, the Center contains two classrooms, a canyon viewing room with floor to ceiling windows, administrative offices, and a reception/gathering room. Some of the center’s facilities are named in honor of special donors who helped make its construction possible, including:
- The visitor’s center, named for C.E. Doolin, co-founder of Frito-Lay;
- The canyon viewing room, supported by a grant from the Dealey Foundation;
- One classroom, the Red Oak Room, was supported by the Harry W. Bass Jr. Foundation.
The reception room, called the Trout Lily Room, is built as a multi-functional space that can accommodate lectures, parties and other gatherings for up to 100 people.
A key reason for establishing the Center is to educate young and old about the incredible diversity in the Canyon and how we can all work together for a healthy environment. Audubon’s science-based programs improve critical thinking skills, and foster stewardship of natural resources. The Center has already hosted a few Audubon Adventure Camps this summer, and will begin a full slate of programs after the grand opening.
The Great Outdoors
Outside, DCAC features a number of gardens and play areas, including the Carolyn Hunt Memorial Garden, and a natural play area named in honor of Will & Katy Ward. Miles of trails take visitors through the forest and the canyon. 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, the Center plans to offer a total of more than four miles of trails.
Information and directions at www.dogwoodcanyonaudubon.org
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“We want Cedar Hill and the people of southwestern Dallas County to come and enjoy this pristine natural setting,” Dr. Patty McGill, the center’s director, told The Dallas Morning News [subscription required].
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Ross Coulter, 214.394.5538, email@example.com
Juliette Coulter, 214.394.5532, Juliette@coultergroup.com