Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center at Cedar Hill Opens to the Public
- 1206 W FM1382
Cedar Hill, TX 75104
- For More Info
- (214) 309-5851
- Official Website
- Date Published
- Aug 15, 2011
- General Info
Free Admission September 10-11
DALLAS, Texas (August 15, 2011) – National Audubon Society President and CEO David Yarnold, Dogwood Canyon “founder” David Hurt, and other local officials and invited guests will cut the ribbon and dedicate the new Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center at Cedar Hill (DCAC) on Friday, September 9, 2011, making Dallas County, which already features the Trinity River Audubon Center, the only county in the country served by two Audubon centers.
The public will get its first opportunity to see the new center and beautiful 205-acre natural surroundings when the center opens for a free weekend of fun and festivities on Saturday and Sunday, September 10 and 11. The free grand opening weekend will include workshops, tours, trail hikes, children’s nature play activities, puppet shows, and other more. Hours for the free weekend are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday the 10th, and 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday the 11th.
Patty McGill, Ph.D, center director for DCAC, said, “Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center is a wild and special place, a unique convergence of east, west, and Central Texas ecosystems. We are excited to welcome guests of all ages and fitness levels to visit us and take advantage of our wonderful programs, hiking trails, and serene environment as a way to reconnect with nature.”
“The National Audubon Society welcomes this beautiful addition to our network of Audubon centers across the country, including two in Dallas County,” said Yarnold. “We look forward to furthering our commitment to reach diverse communities at this wonderful new facility.”
Allison Thompson, 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 the hottest destination in Dallas County.”
A Rare Find
Located 16 miles south of downtown Dallas in Cedar Hill, Dogwood Canyon is part of the White Rock Escarpment. The canyon contains the widest variety of rare species in North Texas as plants and animals from east, west and Central Texas converge there. As a result, the Canyon is the only place in the world where one can find certain plant and animal combinations, such as the Black-chinned hummingbird of west Texas nesting in the flowering dogwood tree of east Texas.
The vision for Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center at Cedar Hill 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.
Unique wildlife living in the canyon includes 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.
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. Tegrus Construction served as the general contractor.
In keeping with the Audubon mission, the center is a sustainably built structure, 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 concrete in the parking lot; minimizing storm runoff from the site; using low VOC paints and formaldehyde-free materials; and installing naturally shaded, low E windows with deep roof eaves that let in significant natural light while minimizing glare.
For the building’s siding, a sustainably sourced, fast-growing softwood called Accoya® was used. This material is insect and water resistant and guaranteed to last at least 50 years. In addition, the siding was given a natural finish so that the building would merge seamlessly into the surrounding forest.
In one of the more unique and significant elements of the DCAC design, the visitor’s center is situated above a concrete “basin” that used to house a telecommunications tower and antenna. Rather than incur the expense and ecological damage that would result from removing the basin, landscape architect Mesa Design Group decided to work with the unique structure as it existed, and built a garden and deck down inside it, accessible by a winding walkway.
Inside, the center contains two classrooms, a viewing room with tall windows that look out onto the canyon, 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, the co-founder of Frito-Lay;
• The canyon viewing room, supported by a grant from the Dealey Foundation;
• One of the classrooms, the Red Oak Room, 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. The space is available for rent by calling 469-526-1980.
McGill added, “A key reason for establishing the center is to educate people of all ages about the incredible diversity of plants and animals in the Canyon and how we can all live together for a healthy future.” As such, the center has already held a few Audubon Adventure Camps this summer, and will begin a full slate of programs after the grand opening. Audubon’s science-based programs improve critical thinking skills and focus on local ecology and habitat study, scientific observation and identification, and stewardship of natural resources. Education curricula are aligned with TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) objectives mandated by the state. Overall, science education programs at DCAC will serve 5,000 children each year.
“Our goal in designing this building was to ‘embrace the forest’ and draw visitors into the outside surroundings, because that is what people really come here to do,” said Cunningham.
The Great Outdoors
Outside, DCAC features a number of gardens and play areas in addition to the garden inside the concrete basin. The Carolyn Hunt Memorial Garden, located behind the visitor’s center, is the facility’s main garden and serves as a gathering place for groups, families, school field trips and other visitors just before the proceed to the trails. It is accessible by ADA ramp.
There is also a children’s nature play area, named in honor of Will and Katy Ward, which serves as a wonderful location for children to explore the outdoors. Surrounded by trees and filled with toys designed to help children better understand the outdoors, the area offers places to sit and relax, picnic tables, and the opportunity to be “embraced” by nature.
The true “stars” of the center are the miles of trails that take visitors through the forest and throughout 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, 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.
After the grand opening, admission to DCAC will cost $6 for adults, $3 for children aged 3-12 (children under 3 are free), and $4 for seniors 60 and older. Membership levels begin at $75. Non-summer operating hours will be from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Tuesday through Sunday, and by appointment only on Mondays.
The Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center at Cedar Hill is located at 1206 W FM1382, Cedar Hill, 75104. Entrance to the center is just northwest of the driveway to Northwood University. Complete ticket information, operating hours, and directions can be found by calling 214-309-5851 or visiting www.dogwoodcanyonaudubon.org.
About The Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center at Cedar Hill:
Sustainably built for LEED certification, the Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center at Cedar Hill is situated on 205 acres of Dogwood Canyon, which contains the widest variety of rare species in North Texas as plants and animals from east, west and central Texas converge there. Located 16 miles south of Downtown Dallas, the Center is a partnership between the City of Cedar Hill and the National Audubon Society. The Center’s physical address is 1206 W FM1382, Cedar Hill, 75104. More information can be found by calling 214-309-5851 or by visiting www.dogwoodcanyonaudubon.org.