A stunning new addition to the George Ranch Historical Park will be showcased with a special public grand opening on May 4th. This $240,000 capital project will provide a unique new educational opportunity for both school groups and general public.
The Heritage Trail encompasses a one-half mile loop following the banks of Dry Creek in an area formerly off limits to visitors. A series of beautifully hand illustrated panels offers thought provoking insight into the human settlement of pristine prairie and its bountiful natural resources. Of special note is the restoration of a one acre plot of native prairie to illustrate the original flora and fauna of the early Texas landscape. This will be an on-going project under the guidance of biologist Scott Barnes and Park staff.
Historical Park Executive Director Candace Jones is careful to note that the interpretive mission of the trail is not to teach basics about nature. She says, “The purpose is to educate visitors to a very interesting and often ignored concept of our cultural heritage. We often somewhat arrogantly announce that the pioneers “tamed and harnessed” the land upon their arrival in 1836.” With a smile she adds. “Anyone who understands Mother Nature knows it was the other way around. The early settlers had to adapt their entire lifestyle to utilize the natural resources of their new home or they simply didn’t survive. Their livelihood came from successfully understanding their natural environment and working with the soils, the flora and fauna, and the climate to create a prosperous life for themselves and their offspring. The mission of the trail is to explore this awareness.” It is a storyline that is rarely contemplated and the planners hope to gain national recognition for the unique perspective.
In early 2011, Director Jones presented the vision to the George Foundation Trustees who were interested in pursuing the possibility. An experienced trail design company, Interpretive Insights led by CEO Amanda Hughes-Horan, was chosen to serve as the project manager for the 18 month process. By late March of 2012, the ground was broken on the east bank of Dry Creek to begin laying the trail foundation for an all weather handicap accessible trail.
Jones was delighted with the decision of the George Foundation and is very grateful for their commitment to bring the project to reality.
Jones states, “The concept of an interpretive trail is very personal to me. Firstly, I have long wanted to incorporate this overlooked concept into the visitor experience at the Historical Park. In my mind, you can’t really understand the story of human history without considering the influence of the natural environment upon their choices and adaptations.”
She continues, “This project is also very dear to me because my departed friend and colleague, Orin Covell, so enjoyed sharing the abundant birdlife with visitors. Later in 2013, we will add a bird identification panel and spotting scope on the bridge from funds given in his memory. I know he would be very pleased that visitors will continue to find pleasure in glimpses of purple gallinules and pink spoonbills”.
The new self guided interpretive trail will make available to the public one of the most serene and picturesque sections of Dry Creek for contemplation and enjoyment. Jones hopes that guests will linger and enjoy the beautiful vistas as well as learning a little extra history.
The George Ranch Historical Park, a living history partnership of the Fort Bend County Museum Association and The George Foundation, helps connect Texans and guests from other states and countries to this region’s remarkable history. The Park aims to educate people of all ages about Texas history through programming that connects and inspires learners. We believe that understanding the past is a key to succeeding in the future.
The mission of the Fort Bend County Museum Association is to preserve the history of Fort Bend County and the surrounding area. The Association strives to inspire and educate the public for the purpose of strengthening awareness and appreciation of cultural heritage for future generations. The Fort Bend County Museum Association has preserved and interpreted Fort Bend County and Texas history since 1967. For more information, please visit www.fortbendmuseum.org and www.georgeranch.org