It's opening weekend at the new Trinity River Audubon Center, and with free admission this Saturday and Sunday, it seemed like an opportune time to size up the nature reclamation project that's been 10 years in the making.
Upwards of $40 million has been poured into making the wild area southeast of downtown less of a flaming cesspool, and opening a nature learning center surrounded by miles of trails. The building's got a long list of eco-friendly touches, from recycled insulation and a grass-topped roof to recycled plastic boardwalks and office furniture. It's even got windows angled downward, to lessen the chances of violent bird collisions in front of impressionable young ornithologists.
The place was packed Saturday -- the first hiking trail turned out to be the long driveway into the park, because the main parking lot was full up. Just to show nature how we do things in Dallas, there was even valet parking if you couldn't stand to be troubled by a long walk to the trails. After that long walk, Pizza Hut was on hand to satisfy hungry hikers with samples of its new organic, multi-grain, free-range, clean-nuclear recipe, which it calls "The Natural."
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For all the genuine trail-mix-toting bird-lovers out there, though, the center is pretty impressive. It's got plenty of kid-friendly, hands-on exhibits -- including the chance to watch a miniature Dallas sink under a once-in-a-century doomsday flood! Or to lean over and splash an unsuspecting little sister.
Outside, the trails were open, with a "birds of prey" exhibit where one lucky naturalist spent her Saturday with a live red-tailed hawk perched on her left hand. Folks at the center said this weekend was too hot for prime bird-viewing, but an expert from Columbia University had visited the center earlier this week and spotted dozens of different species, including lots of little killdeers.
The Trinity River Audubon Center's free til 5 p.m. today, as well as every third Thursday of the month. Otherwise, entry will set you back $6, or $3 for kids under 13. Best of all, though, now that water from the Trinity can be observed under a microscope without inducing nightmares, the center will also become a major field trip destination for kids around DISD.