“Friends” put nature on map

There are more than 2,000-acres of prairies, forests and wetlands in southern Denton County open to the public every Friday, Saturday and Sunday for fishing, hiking, camping, bird watching, kayaking/canoeing, picnicking, and other outdoor activities.

This natural setting is known as LLELA—the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area—and is located at 201 E. Jones St., southeast of the Lewisville Lake Dam that runs perpendicular to Mill St.

The land is managed as a wildlife preserve by three fulltime staff members and belongs to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It’s supported by the University of North Texas, the City of Lewisville, LISD and Texas A & M University.

The fundamental reasons LLELA exists are numerous: preservation of the wildlife species, restoration of the land, education for children and adults, research and recreation.

To further that vision, a core group of volunteers and supporters decided to organize their efforts last autumn. The Friends of LLELA organization, which is in the process of securing 501c3 status as a non-profit entity, appointed a seven-member board in January to steer LLELA to new heights.

“From the very beginning, we sat down together with the three staff members and decided how we’re going to work together and learn as we go,” said Friends of LLELA Board Vice President Kristy McCorkle of Highland Village. “We’re going to focus on what LLELA needs for the future and what the residents need from it as well.”

Other board members include Susanne Barnard of Double Oak and Elaine Takacs and Scott Kiester, both of Flower Mound.

Their mission is to preserve and restore our native ecosystems and to provide and promote environmental education and scientific research.

Currently, the Friends of LLELA are constructing a new nine-mile hiking trail and working to secure grants from local retailers, such as REI (which will use the area to host outdoor-themed classes).

The group is also hard at work publicizing the natural setting as a weekend “staycation” destination through a variety of public-friendly events, such as the “One Ale of a Trail” trail-run April 26 and a half-marathon across the Lewisville Lake Dam set for Oct. 19.

The events also extend to the unusual variety. There is an edible wild plants class on March 23 and McCorkle said a recent educational activity was a tarantula release.

“The tarantula’s habitat has died off, but it’s an important, non-poisonous species native to this area,” McCorkle said. “Kids had a chance to raise a baby tarantula [known as a yearling], name it and release it into the wild. They had a blast and learned something in the process.”

In a technology-driven world, sometimes the best break is simply getting outdoors and surrounding yourself with nature.

“My heart always told me I would be happiest doing volunteer work that involved nature and wildlife,” McCorkle said. “The chance to do this is like an answer to a prayer.”

LLELA is open to the public Friday, Saturday and Sunday for a $5 admission fee.

To learn more about LLELA, visit their Facebook site at: www.facebook.com/LLELALewisvilleLake, website at www.ias.unt.edu/llela, or call 972-219-3930.


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