DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Did you know the Great Trinity Forest, in southern Dallas, is the largest, urban, Hardwood Bottomland Forest in North America? Most people don’t.
Spring flooding from the nearby Trinity River created the forest decades ago. The area was once covered with cotton fields. After they were abandoned, seeds from trees upstream were deposited in the floodplain and eventually became a more than 6,000-acre forest owned by the City of Dallas.
“It’s just short of about 7,000 acres. It’s about six or seven times the size of Central Park in New York [City],” explained Peter Payton with Groundwork Dallas.
Groundwork Dallas is one of many groundwork trusts across the country started by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. National Park Service. The trust works with area teenagers, generally between 15 and 18-years-old, to educate them in all aspects of natural cleanup and maintenance.
“Pretty much at least one weekend a month, if not more than that, we go into the forest and find places where people have either dumped off illegally, piles of tires, shingles, construction equipment, computer equipment, just illegal dump sites all over the place,” Payton said of the obstacles Groundwork Dallas faces.
Currently, teams of teens are cleaning and surveying the Great Trinity Forest. Ultimately the hope is those same teens will begin building hiking, biking and horseback trails, gaining educational and vocational training as it relates to the environment that could lead to careers in forestry.
The Great Trinity Forest is in a floodplain, so keeping trash and debris from choking it out is a huge undertaking. “Whenever there’s a big rain event all the trash, cigarette wrappers, cigarette butts, Slurpee cups that get tossed of the windows all over North Texas ends up washing into the watershed, Payton explained. “The Trinity Forest ends up kind of acting like a filter and it sucks all the trash out of the water and it just kinda stays in the forest.”
While some nine miles of trails in the Great Trinity Forest have been built, the cleanup and maintenance teams still have a lot to do. Payton says the forest is bigger than some might think. “It stretches, in the north, from Scyene Road down to just south of I-20.”
While the Great Trinity Forest is vast in size and the keeper of many ‘gems,’ few people know of its existence. “I would say that probably one out of 10 people that I talk to have even heard of it, let alone been there,” said Payton.
There are still three sections of the nine completed miles of trails that need to be ‘adopted’ for continued maintenance.
Payton, who calls the Great Trinity Forest “the best-kept secret in Texas,” believes it’s a good investment for anyone.
Of the forest, he said, “It’s an amazing thing and I would highly recommend to anybody to grab a cup of coffee and take a little zip down Loop 12 or out 175 in the morning before you go in to work and watch the sun rise and listen to the birds and everything out there. It’s an amazing place.”
Click here to learn more about Groundwork Dallas and their efforts to improve and maintain the Great Trinity Forest and its surrounding communities.