The Proof Is in the Prairie
“BEAUTIFICATION, as it came about in our time in the White House, was based on pride in your hometown, whether it was Small Town, USA, or a great city, for it to be clean, with trees and flowers and places of refreshment for your spirit, and to get outdoors.” Lady Bird Johnson, from “Lady Bird Johnson: An Oral History,” by Michael L. Gillette (Oxford, 2012)
Getting people outdoors — whether to refresh their minds among the floral sights and scents or just to move their muscles — was a key concept behind the prairie restoration site that is Bluestem Park in north Fort Worth, Texas, that saw its grand opening this May.
Just two years ago, the park began the transformation from cattle-trod field to revitalized native plant and wildlife habitat. Even the Wildflower Center’s ecosystem designers, who aided in and oversaw the project, seem to marvel at the speed of this 14-acre ecological makeover.
Today, the site is abuzz with bees and dotted with bicycles; visitors enjoy views of the namesake bluestem grasses, woven into a festive tapestry with native wildflowers. The stream that slips quietly through the park was carefully planned and reestablished to match its meandering predecessor. It is a vast aesthetic and ecological improvement on the land’s last water-feature, a manmade stock pond.
The restored land not only serves as a beautiful backdrop for community events; it is designed with wellness in mind: for humans, wildlife and the environment. Mike Berry, president of Hillwood (the developers to which the project can be credited), says he hopes the park will become a place of “…outdoor learning experiences, health and wellness programming, or the simple enjoyment by children and families, tourists and local employees.” The employees of Hillwood have come to enjoy the space so much, in fact, that they plan to move their offices to the park’s perimeter, Alliance Town Center. Future guests of a hotel being developed near the site, which has been designed to face the prairie park, will open their curtains to the site of painted lady butterflies and scissor-tailed flycatchers stretching their wings amongst the bushy bluestem.
As Texas faces a forecasted population increase of 82 percent by 2060, the beautiful and functional Bluestem Park shows that companies can align stewardship and sustainability with design and development. The proof is in the prairie.