Earlier this holiday season, the Big Thicket Natural Heritage Trust, secured the future of a public trail that winds through the beauty of Big Thicket’s rich woods.
Located on 39 acres just east of Woodville, where US Highway 190 crosses over Theuvenins Creek, (pronounced “tootlum”), the almost mile long Dogwood Trail is one of the last remaining “Woodland Trails,” a network of nature trails on private land that were maintained by the Texas Forestry Association in several East Texas counties. The Woodland Trails network provided places for the Association to educate the public about tree identification and forestry practices while simultaneously providing scenic roadside views and recreational opportunities. Most of the properties that were part of this regional public recreation amenity have since been closed to public access as privately owned timber lands have been sold and converted to other uses. The Big Thicket Natural Heritage Trust has stated they didn’t want to see that happen to the Dogwood Trail in their community.
Founded in 1999 and driven by a group of energetic volunteers, the Big Thicket Natural Heritage Trust rallied their national, state and local partners and led a multi-year effort to purchase the 39-acre property containing the trail from Hancock Natural Resource Group. The Trust secured a Federal Highway Administration National Recreational Trails Fund grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and raised matching funds for the grant from private donors, including three East Texas-based foundations. The Trust used a bridge loan from the Conservation Loans Program of The Conservation Fund, a national environmental nonprofit, to close on the property and bridge the reimbursement style grant from the TPWD. Once the loan is repaid, the Trust will convey the property to the Texas A&M Forest Service. The property will initially be closed to the public while necessary repairs to the trail are completed then opened permanently.
The Dogwood Trail is located just off Highway 190 three miles east of Woodville. The roughly 0.8-mile long trail winds through a tall forest of beech, magnolia and maple trees with a variety of wildflowers that bloom on the forest floor. A large creek, Theuvenins Creek, flows along the trail. Mature forests of this type are becoming rarer as many examples have disappeared due to development, timber management, catastrophic hurricane damage, and other impacts. It will offer an easily accessible way to experience the natural beauty of the Big Thicket’s rich woods.
The Trust would like to acknowledge and thank partners who provided financial assistance for the Dogwood Trail acquisition and renovation project: The Edaren Foundation, The Damuth Foundation, The Pineywoods Foundation, Ms. Maxine Johnston, Texas A&M Forest Service, The Conservation Fund and Texas Conservation Alliance.
Bob Warneke, President of the Damuth Foundation, said, “Several of our board members have walked the Trail, and we quickly realized the importance of insuring that the public had access to such a magical place.”
“The community is incredibly lucky to have a group like the Big Thicket Natural Heritage Trust working to strike the balance between conservation and economic development in the community. As more people look to move out of the city or need a weekend getaway, providing them with a new destination for recreation will encourage them to visit the Woodville area. It has been a privilege to be a part of this project and we are inspired by the Trust’s commitment to the natural resources and their community,” said Reggie Hall, Conservation Loans Director, The Conservation Fund.
The mission of the Big Thicket Natural Heritage Trust is to protect and conserve lands in Southeast Texas to ensure that examples of natural landscapes are left intact for today and for the future. Land and water stewardship are essential to a healthy Texas, asserts the Trust. Protected lands conserve the local water supply, provide habitat for wildlife and improve quality of life for exploring visitors.
Anyone interested in supporting the Dogwood Trail and other land acquisition projects in the Big Thicket area can contact President Ellen Buchanan, email@example.com or visit the website at www.bigthickettrust.org.
About The Conservation Fund
According to The Conservation Fund, “We make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect more than 8 million acres of land, including over 235,000 acres in Texas and 33,000 acres at Big Thicket National Preserve.”
For more information about the organization visit www.conservationfund.org.
About the Damuth Foundation
The Malcolm C. Damuth Foundation is an Austin-based foundation that gives grants for conservation projects that protect and manage habitat. In its 14-year existence, the Foundation has given almost $3.5 million for that purpose.
– Ellen Buchanan, President, Big Thicket Natural Heritage Trust