Last month, White Rock Lake Park became the first public park recognized as a model of land stewardship by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Since 1996, the Lone Star Land Stewards Awards have been given annually by the TPWD to recognize private landowners for their accomplishments in habitat management and wildlife conservation.
This was the first time a city has been selected for this honor. White Rock was one of 11 winners, including nine private ranchers and a cooperative category recognizing landowners who band together to help wildlife. WRL won in the corporate category.
“We at the Parks Department are excited to be recognized with this award from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. I think it’s a great recognition of all the extraordinary work we’ve been doing at the lake with all of our private partners to re-establish the Blackland Prairie ecosystem and to re-establish many plant and wildlife species,” says the Parks Department’s Willis Winters, who singled out the help of Becky Rader and other Master Naturalists.
“When you look at the list of winners, for us to be there as the first municipality — it’s quite an honor.”
White Rock Lake Park, created in 1911, has evolved into a model for urban outdoor recreation and conservation.
The 2,115-acre area is comprised of a 1,088-acre lake, riparian areas along creeks that include a variety of bottomland hardwood trees and wetlands.
The park’s Blackland Prairie remnants have been described as some of the most rare in existence.
A change in wildlife management practices, namely the restriction in mowing to once a year, allowed the restoration of the Prairie.
Now plant and wildlife diversity in the area is increasing. One area of the park, where 192 plant species were identified 10 years ago, today boasts more than 330 species. Wildlife has increased to include 240 identified species of birds, and mink, beaver, raccoon, opossum, bobcat, coyote, red and gray fox, deer, gray squirrel, wood rat, white footed mouse also flourish in the area.
“It’s important that people understand the key to diverse and abundant wildlife is well-managed habitats, and in Texas that occurs mostly on private land, since 94 percent of the Texas landscape is privately owned,” says Linda Campbell, TPWD private lands program leader.
“However, wildlife conservation can and does happen in public parks and in urban and suburban areas, as the White Rock Lake example shows. And those examples are important to educate the majority of people who live in cities, as well as to actually provide some valuable habitat for wildlife in urban settings.”
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