When the Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center opened in Cedar Hill last month, Dallas County became the only place in the country with two national Audubon centers. The other is the Trinity River Audubon Center. The Dogwood Canyon center’s director, Patty McGill, lives in Forest Hills. She has a doctorate degree in ornithology from Cornell University, and she specializes in ecology and conservation. McGill worked for 22 years at the Chicago Zoological Society, which operates the Brookfield Zoo. She moved to Dallas recently with her husband, who works at the Dallas Zoo.

Why did you move to Dallas?
I left the Brookfield Zoo because I got married four years ago. Finding two really good jobs in our fields in the same city is not easy. My husband found a job at the Dallas Zoo, and this opportunity came along at Dogwood Canyon. My real passion is birds, nature, wildlife, conservation. So the opportunity to work with the Audubon society at Dogwood Canyon is just a great fit for me. The combination of science and conservation and birds and connecting people with nature is just really a perfect, perfect fit.

Photo by Can Türkyilmaz

Tell us a little bit about the Audubon center.
We’ll have programs for children and nature lovers of all ages. We’re in a 3,000-acre green space, so it’s a gorgeous location with a rich diversity of nature, and we’ll be offering school programs, preschool nature play opportunities, programs for families and adults, and eventually, I would like to connect with seniors in the area. We have a canyon view room, which is wheelchair accessible, so people who cannot access the trail can still get up close with nature. We’ll have a lot of informal programming. There will be some guided hikes, or people can just hike the trails themselves themselves.

What are the trails like?
There are about 1.75 miles of trail now, but our long-term vision is to have between 4 and 5 miles of trail. There are two trails. One is easy, and the other is about 1.5 miles up the side of the canyon. There are some wonderful vistas across the canyon, and at the top you can see out to Fort Worth.

Tell us a little bit more about Dogwood Canyon itself.
One of the reasons Dogwood Canyon is so special is the really unique combination of animals from East Texas, West Texas, North Texas and even Central Texas. We have a combination of plants and animals that I don’t think can be seen anywhere else. We’re like a little slice of the hill country here in south Dallas County, but we have Texas buckeye, juniper… a rich diversity of plants and animals in one location.

So Dallas has two Audubon centers?
Dallas County is the only county in the country that has two Audubon centers. The Trinity River Audubon Center is very different. It was built on a restored landfill, so that is a site that was badly damaged and is recovering. Their location is more about restoration. Ours is almost a pristine site, so we have a lot that we are trying to protect here in the canyon. The way it differs from other conservation centers is that we run it in a way that we can protect the environment but also get people out where they can see it and enjoy it. We’re trying to incorporate people and learning into the picture. We’re more about wise stewardship than total protection.

What else you would like to tell us about the center?
People who are not familiar with this area really need to come see it. We’re going to have things for nature lovers of all ages to get out and enjoy the site.

How do you like living near White Rock Lake?
We just fell in love with the White Rock Lake area. We’re both Midwesterners, so we love having trees and birds in our backyard. We like to get over to the lake and walk. We’ve been very happy with it. We were looking for a place that has a neighborhood feel, and it definitely has that.