The People of the Wildscape at Veterans Park - Ann Trenton
Julia Burgen and Molly Hollar…they were the instigators. Julia was president of the Arlington Conservation Council (ACC) and is now a member of the Arlington City Council. Molly was and is one of nature's guardians. When Julia in April of 1994 read about the grant money available through the Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD), she told Molly and both told others. This could be the seed money to create a Wildscape to showcase the philosophy and practices of the Arlington Conservation Council (ACC), the Arlington Organic Gardening Club (AOGC), and the Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT), North Central Chapter.
Enthusiasm abounded for the project, with a committee quickly formed and site soon selected with the support of the City of Arlington and its park department. Molly met with Rosa Finsley of Kings Creek Gardens to detail a landscape design. Kim Brewer wrote the grant proposal. The matching grant was awarded August 4, 1994. It was for $3000 and it was the first for a Wildscape project in Texas.
Matching the $3000 in kind and service was the easiest of tasks in light of the hundreds of volunteer hours willingly given to the Wildscape at Veterans Park. A dedication ceremony was held April 23, 1995. We had a Wildscape, a meadow of native wildflowers, paths lined with native plants, a small pond partially encircled with boulders…all designed to entice birds and butterflies, lizards and frogs, rabbits and other critters, and people, too. Here were the lessons of organic gardening and earth friendly landscape ecology.
That was only the beginning. In 1997 the US Fish and Wildlife Service took an interest in the Wildscape, "It's wonderful, but too small", he said. An so he, Mike McCollum, helped ease the way for another grant, this one $6,000. The volunteers kept coming and the AOGC, the ACC and NPSOT scraped together additional funds again to donate to the cause. More plants were added, paths resurfaced, benches were added along with interpretive signs and additional stone work.
Experts gave and continue to freely give consultation time. Rosa Finsley has been our design angel; Joanne Karges, our butterfly queen; Jim Barnes, our bird king. John Davis at the TPWD-Urban Non Game Division has encouraged and educated us throughout in the ways of the naturalist. He has also agreed to officially act as our advisor. Denise Delaney, Chief Horticulturist at the Wildflower Center in Austin graciously gave valuable tips, and Lucy Harrell of Ladies of the Garden has been our organic guru. Credit goes to many, many others who have shared their time and wisdom.
And what other gifts we have received! John Snowden of Bluestem Nursery has donated all the wild grasses. Kings Creek and Redenta's Gardens afford us discounted prices on plant material. Steve Smith built our benches. The Arlington Parks Department gives us mulch and compost.
In 1999. the Wildscape received the Mayor's Urban Design Award. In 1999, US Fish & Wildlife approved plans for Phases II and III and additional monies. The meadow represents Phase I; the creek and its proposed low level waterfall let us visit an aquatic environment in Phase II; and Phase II, is the woodland area. The Wildscape now covers 3.2 acres with trails throughout.
The Wildscape continues to be a remarkable effort notable for its broad support over the years in tine, labor and money granted by individuals, associations, public and private entities, and most recently the large corporate concern of Northrop Grumman. Northrop Grumman in fact selected the Wildscape as its Project Good Turn 2000, a project involving the participation of over 200 employee volunteers who will, among various tasks, help build bridges, new benches, a boardwalk and pavilion, and help clear exotics and plant more natives. This will be a one day event, June 17, 2000. Many other Wildscape volunteers will also participate.
The Wildscape is and will continue to be a work in progress as we seek to offer the community an opportunity to explore and to enjoy an area we hope to restore to the biodiversity that once existed. We hope to also offer an opportunity to learn how with our own native plants we can develop gardens, yards and acreage that help enrich the environment and ourselves.