Twelve Hills Nature Center: One big organic native garden

Located on 5.4 acres of rolling blackland prairie sits Twelve Hills Nature Center at 817 Mary Cliff Drive. It is a nature preserve dedicated to educating children and adults through activities related to stewardship of the land. Home to many species of native flora and fauna, Twelve Hills Nature Center offers a glimpse into the rich history of our land, what is was before the progress of cement, asphalt and expensive homes came along.

Twelve Hills Nature Center is 12 this year. And at 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, Jamie Laws of Repotted and I celebrate Native Plant Week at Twelve Hills. We will teach guests how to prepare an organic flower bed, and we will look at some great native plants to enhance residential landscapes. Fall is the best time to plant natives, which do well with minimal water and provide habitat for butterflies and birds. I hope to see you there!

Some history on Twelve Hills after the jump.

Back in the ’40s and ’50s, the area was referred to as “the woods,” where neighborhood kids played, according to Twelve Hills Nature Center historian Paula Craig. In 1963 Don Adams designed some top-flight apartments complete with three bedrooms, carpet and chandeliers. Very classy. But by the 1970s, the apartments had deteriorated due to poor management. The property changed hands several times through the ’80s, when it became a known place for drugs and gangs. Crime increased in the neighborhood, homes were burglarized, bikes and tools were often stolen.

The 20-acre Twelve Hills apartments were demolished in 1992. The Rosemont Elementary School lower campus was built on about 10 acres. And home builder Matt Holley bought the other half. (Holley later sold a little over 5 acres at a reduced price for Twelve Hills Nature Center.)

Now Twelve Hills is an established conservation easement. It can never be built on and no one can buy it. “So children can touch nature and have something to show the history of what Oak Cliff was, not just pavement,” Craig says.

“These arms of rock will welcome you to come inside and conspire with nature…” is the quote that invites you into the nature center as you begin the journey of discovery into the past. My daughter and I have walked through Twelve Hills on many occasions. We discover something new every time we walk the trail. Every season holds new flowers, grasses, color on the trees, birds, butterflies and more. There is also an active creek on the property. Craig says, “Oak Cliff folks are creek people, and we need to teach our children that so they can have identity to the land.” So true. There are many creeks in the area which are home to another whole ecosystem that provides food, water and shelter to many living creatures.

“Future plans for Twelve Hills include improving habitat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife, continuing our collaboration with Rosemont Elementary School, bringing nature education to neighborhood children and the public, and maintaining the nature center as a place for neighborhood residents to enjoy a brief escape into a natural area,” says president of the Twelve Hills board Marcie Haley.

Twelve Hills Nature Center is one of our biggest treasures in Oak Cliff giving us a glimpse into our past, educating us and nurturing our souls with the simplest of all gifts, the naturally occurring ones.


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