Although the economy has side-lined many education projects these past few years for our members, as I travel across the country, I am beginning to see member projects that are being completed.  Such is the case at the Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Sports Complex in Arlington, Texas.  Even before the project was built, way back in 1997, the goal was to install an educational/walking/jogging trail for park users.  Over the years, the trail was proposed through their budgeting process time after time after time. but with so many other responsibilities, the city of Arlington was unable to make that trail a reality.

However,  recently on my re-certification site review of the project (which includes the Gary Stephenson-designed Tierra Verde Golf club), I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only was the trail itself completed, the interpretive signage was installed as well.  The much anticipated walking trail is 1.2 miles long and takes a walker/jogger through several different habitats along a granite-based trail which is wide enough to keep patrons out of the vegetation but narrow enough for it to be an intimate experience in nature.  It was evident that there had been a lot of planning in this design.

At the beginning of the trail is a sign which explains the concept of the trail design by highlighting the Guiding Principles for Ecologically Sustainable Trail Design such as “Provide Buffers to Avoid/Protect Sensitive Ecological and Hydrological Systems”.   To be a sustainable trail, each of these Key Factors in Developing a Sustainable Trail must be considered in the planning, design, and construction of the trail:

1. Physical Sustainability -designing trails to retain their form over years of use and natural forces’ impact on them

2. Ecological Sustainability – minimizing ecological impact of trail especially in sensitive areas.

3. Engendering Stewardship – fostering a sense of individual responsibiliy for stewardship.

Then to keep users on the trail, the trail design must: create compelling trail sequences, manage view sheds for interest, and be shaped (laid out) consistent with visitor expectation.

The MLK trail has done all of this and more.  Signs, like the one you see here, were placed cooperatively with Texas Parks & Wildlife and are of a durable, recycled material.  Benches are being placed throughout the length of the trail for those who wish to sit and reflect.

So when you are in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and would like to take a short yet informative walk, try the Nature Trail at MLK near Arlington. On the other hand,  if you are planning a project that has been put on hold time and time again, just hang in there.  The MLK folks did, and although it took over 13 years, the end product was definitely worth the wait.

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