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Hit the trails: Elm Fork Nature Preserve welcomes visitors, wildlife alike
Summer in Texas can be brutal. Temperatures flirt with triple digit heat records, and rain is a distant memory. But, despite the heat, there's something about being outdoors that brings a welcome smile, deep relaxation and a carefree attitude, especially at Carrollton's Elm Fork Nature Preserve.
The preserve, located at 2335 Sandy Lake Road, is a 40-acre respite for flora, fauna, wildlife and insects.
The Elm Fork Nature Preserve provides a place where visitors can learn about the natural environment and observe wildlife, said Toyia Pointer, curator at A. W. Perry Homestead Museum and Carrollton Parks and Recreation Department employee.
"It's also a place to learn about the history of our area," she said. "The Elm Fork Nature Preserve was purchased as a woodright in 1861 by the Bramblitt Family. The land was never clear-cut, and in 1986 the 40 acres were given to the city of Carrollton as a self-contained ecosystem, virtually undisturbed."
While the city has expanded around it, the preserve remains as it was in 1861. Meadows and trails beckon nature lovers, wildlife saunter through the tall grass, and plants and flowers bask under the warm sunshine.
"Visitors can expect to find a wooded area with a natural surface trail," Pointer said. "At the start of the trail, near the parking lot, there are three interpretive panels with text and graphics that visitors can read to learn about the plants and animals in the preserve."
A one-mile loop trail swings through the preserve, welcoming walkers, runners, kids and adults alike.
"Trails are open for hikes everyday from dawn to dusk," Pointer said. "During the summer months, the best time to visit is early morning when the temperature is cooler and the wildlife, including birds and squirrels and other small creatures, are more active."
Since the preserve is home to many different species, Pointer suggests a few tips to keep ankles safe from snakes and chiggers.
"Visitors should stay on the designated trails at all times and watch out for poison ivy, snakes and other wildlife," Pointer said. "Dress according to the weather in comfortable clothing and long pants. No open-toed shoes. Bring insect repellent and bottled water on hikes."
A flora and fauna survey as well as a biodiversity inventory can be found on the preserves website and lists all animals that dwell in the preserve.
"Some animals that have been seen include armadillos, raccoons, coyotes as well as many types of birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians," Pointer said. "It's very diverse. Commonly seen animals and tracks at the preserve are raccoons, fox squirrels, opossums, beavers, nine-banded armadillos, eastern cottontails and striped skunks. Commonly seen birds in the area are great blue herons, snowy egrets, white-throated sparrows, red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, screech owls, woodpeckers, cardinals and much more."
Dusty Pilgrim, an instructor for the city of Carrollton, specializes in all outdoor education at the Elm Fork Nature Center. He is also charged with the task of taking local families camping at the preserve and knows the preserve well.
"What makes the Elm Fork Nature Preserve unique is the fact that it is has been relatively untouched since its purchase," Pilgrim said. "For being so close to the city it has an amazing amount of bio-diversity and is thriving. I am constantly amazed that every time I visit, I discover something new living in it. Every nature hike and every camping trip have been different because of just how much wildlife lives in the 40 acres and most of it is easily spotted from the trails."
Residents interested in volunteer opportunities, several different opportunities are available in many different areas and donations are accepted for maintenance and programming of the Nature Preserve. For more information call 972-466-6382 or visit cityofcarrollton.com.
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