All Posts By

Marcie H

Antéks Home Furnishings provides $1000 matching gift for 2019 North Texas Giving Day!

Help us meet our match!

Antéks Home Furnishings (www.antekshome.com) is supporting Twelve Hills Nature Center with a $1000 matching gift!

The Twelve Hills Board thanks Antéks’ Home Furnishings for the generous support two years in a row!

When: Thursday, September 19


  1. On September 19, Make a contribution to Twelve Hills Nature Center through the North Texas Giving Day between 6 AM and midnight website here https://www.northtexasgivingday.org/twelve-hills-nature-center
  2. Not available on September 19? Between September 9 and September 18, schedule your donation here https://www.northtexasgivingday.org/twelve-hills-nature-center
  3. Spread the word to friends and family.
  4. Create your own FUNdraising Page to highlight Twelve Hills and promote our North Texas Giving Day campaign. Find details here https://www.northtexasgivingday.org/index.php?action=campaignLogin&fwID=1789&_fwActionVerify=ISM8V5F8SSJP5Z528M8FG8311X6KRJ&ret=section%3DmyAccount.campaigns%26action%3Dnew%26fwID2%3D1789


Participate in the effort to create and maintain a Blackland Prairie and large butterfly garden where visitors can take a peaceful walk in a natural area and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. Help provide nature education for preschool children through adults.

Provide community members with a local nature area to experience the uniqueness of the natural world, and through personal experience recognize the importance of wild areas and taking care of them.



Just for fun:

Search on google for Twelve Hills Nature Center and read 56 reviews!


North Texas Giving Day 2017 a Big Success!

Thanks to our wonderful friends and neighbors, Twelve Hills received $4110 in donations on North Texas Giving Day. In addition, Grand Bank of Texas is generously providing another $1000 in matching funds!

We are grateful for your support of our education programs and prairie restoration efforts.  You’re the best!

Coexisting with our Wild Animal Friends


Tuesday, September 13, 7:00 PM, 2016 doors open at 6:30 PM.

Weiss Auditorium at Methodist Dallas Medical Center,

1401 Stemmons Ave., Dallas, TX 75208.   Park in lot B.

In light of the increased interest in wildlife activity in North Oak Cliff, Twelve Hills Nature Center and Methodist Dallas Medical Center are sponsoring a talk by Urban Biologist Brett Johnson on the topic of co-existing with our wild animal neighbors in Dallas.

The talk will be held at Weiss Auditorium at Methodist. The presentation will cover how to help with wildlife conservation in the city, and how you can reduce negative wildlife interactions. There will be a Q&A following.

Brett Johnson has worked for twelve years as urban wildlife biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. He joined the City of Dallas in 2015 as the Senior Environmental Coordinator/Urban Biologist for the Dallas Park and Recreation Department. Brett is one of the country’s leading experts on urban coyotes.

Doors open at 6:30. Light refreshments will be available. Please RSVP to twelvehillsnaturecenter@gmail.com .

Weiss Auditorium is at 1401 Stemmons (across from Pavilion 3). Parking will be available in Parking Lot B.


Advocate Poll “Best of Oak Cliff 2016” votes Twelve Hills “Best Place to Relax in OC”!

Thank-you, friends and supporters, for voting for Twelve Hills as Best Place to Relax in the Oak Cliff Advocate’s Best of Oak Cliff 2016 poll.  http://oakcliff.advocatemag.com/2016/08/advocates-best-oak-cliff-2016-recap/

Oak Cliff Culture   –    Best Place to Relax

Winner: Twelve Hills Nature Center
Wild Detectives
Lucky Dog Books
Golf Club of Dallas
Stevens Park Golf Course
Belmont Hotel

Twelve Hills is Awarded a TPWD Conservation License Plate Grant

Box 5 platesThe Wildlife Diversity Program is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 Horned Lizard License Plate Grants. These pass-through grants are a valuable source of funding for the conservation community to conserve the natural resources of Texas. We are excited about the diversity of this year’s awardees, which include projects across the state, and include youth outreach, increasing wildlife viewing opportunities, habitat restoration, coalition building with the Teaming With Wildlife organization, and important research on rare and sensitive species.

See more at: https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/wildlife_diversity/grants/conservation-plates/


North Texas Wild

Twelve Hills Nature Center offers Oak Cliff oasis

According to Marcie Haley, Twelve Hills Nature Center is a welcome anomaly in this part of town.

“In Oak Cliff, every piece of open land is being developed and yet here we are,” said Haley. “Twelve Hills is going to become more important as less and less open space is available.”

Haley is the director of the non-profit that oversees the five-acre oasis on Mary Cliff Road, south of I-30 near Stevens Park Golf Course in Dallas.

Wedged between St. Cecilia’s Catholic School, the Kessler Woods development and drainage to Combs Creek, Twelve Hills unfurls down a bumpy slope from a beautiful entryway of sandstone and native plants. The edges are thick with oak and cedar elms. The songbirds they host are vocal this summer morning, trilling and chirping and flying between the trees as Haley and I amble the walking trail around the preserve’s edges.

brown thrashers spring 2015 nBorja copy150914The focus of Twelve Hills is on birds and Master Birder volunteer Shannon Love has identified 51 species. The occasional rabbit has been sighted, along with lizards and small snakes, toads and frogs. The entrance garden plants are designed to attract butterfly species in all stages of development, with stone benches and walls providing a pleasant place to sit and observe the aerial beauty.

“The animal life is coming along,” said Haley, though she noted that the lack of a water feature is a drawback to attracting regular residents.

Native shrubs try to flourish in the understory but struggle through the invading privet. Small copses of trees and brush dot the central open space whose grasses and wildflowers show hints of its prairie origins.

“Jim Varnum, a very helpful person to me and the nature center in general, has been involved since the beginning,” said Haley. “He keeps the plant list and is up to 210 species.”

From Rubble Arises Beauty

The land where Twelve Hills resides was once an apartment complex of 12 buildings tucked amid 20 acres of trees. Built in 1950, after a few decades it trudged toward decrepit. The middle-class community that had grown to surround it demanded its demise, even though they loved the trees, and bulldozers took the buildings down. It remained as ersatz open space until 2000 when pressure for action reached a peak.

“Developers wanted it, St. Cecilia wanted it, and a group of neighbors arose that wanted to make the whole 20 acres into a nature center,” said Haley. “The school got its chunk and a developer, who had developed Kessler Woods, got the rest.”

But the open-space loving neighbors persisted and convinced the developer to sell them five acres back at a reduced price.

“Jennifer Touchet did an excellent job,” said Haley. “She raised awareness about the importance of a nature center to the neighborhood, and organized and led the effort to create Twelve Hills — from talking with city councilmen, circulating a petition, and obtaining nonprofit status.”

Twelve Hills incorporated as a nonprofit in 2005 and set up deed restrictions so the land could not be developed. Then began the long hard work of returning the neglected enclave to nature.

Healing the Land

Few sayings are more harmful to habitat preservation that to “let nature take its course.” Once an ecosystem has been disturbed, whether farming, roads or urban development, the forces that kept it in balance are forever sundered.

“Our biggest challenge is absolutely invasive plants. Privet, ugh” said Haley, echoing the sentiment of all North Texas naturalists who revile the flowering Chinese shrub.

Invasive foreign landscape plants like privet and nandina take over, killing the trees they find shelter beneath and creating monocultures. Local species do not relish the berries so they don’t support wildlife. Even opportunistic native trees like cedar elm will overgrow an area with brush and trumpet vines will crowd out native grasses and wildflowers.

It’s up to Twelve Hills volunteers to shape the land’s progress and maintain balance, from pruning and removing unwanted species, to seeding and planting desired ones. The lack of water for all but the front sections hinders their success as most plants require a year or two of supplemental watering to become established.

“I have a number of really dedicated volunteers out here,” said Haley. “John Wilt puts in a few days a week. He’s working the on the poison ivy. It was pretty much everywhere.”

A live oak competes with invasive privet.

This year’s plans include liberating from privet a large live oak called the Founders’ Tree. Also on the agenda is improving the appearance and diversity of grasses and wildflowers in the small pocket prairie that fronts the street, which already boasts a good spread of sideoats grama. Recently volunteers from North Texas Master Naturalists transplanted to Twelve Hills native blackland prairie grasses and forbs from a parcel being destroyed for development. Less than 2 percent of the blackland prairie ecosystem remains.

Growing New Naturalists

Twelve Hills is within walking distance of over 1,500 students ages 4 to 14, including adjacent St. Cecilia Catholic School and nearby Rosemont Elementary School of DISD, plus around 2,000 high school students. It serves as an outdoor classroom for the schools. In the Nature Leaders afterschool program at Rosemont the focus is on 5th graders taught by their teachers and master naturalist volunteers.

“It’s a 12-week program on the blackland prairie ecosystem,” said Haley. “We look at plants, animals and their relationships and their role in the prairie. As it nears the end of April, we shift to wildflowers. They also test the water and learn about water quality and watersheds, and learn a little bit about geology. We teach the students to lead nature walks. They develop talking points and then lead all their fellow students. They become role models.”

Haley pointed out that because the schoolchildren grow up with respect for Twelve Hills, they take ownership of it, picking up litter and watching for misuse by people of bad intent. Often times, she said, other classes come over on their own, just for the fun and fresh air.

“With their help and the help of our adult volunteers, we hope to see a prairie here some day with all those beautiful wildflowers and grasses,” said Haley, gesturing to the central open area of Twelve Hills. “We’ll use it to educate people, so when they see it they’ll have a sense of environmental stewardship and why the prairie needs to be preserved.”

A Deeper Sense of Nature

Paula Craig, a longtime neighborhood resident and Montessori teacher, has been involved with Twelve Hills from the start. According to Haley, the mission of the preserve is best summed up by Craig:

“There will be no more important concern in the next 20 years in lifestyle, business, recreation, theology and art than the natural environment and human use of resources. So one of the best gifts you can give your children is to start them early — yes, as toddlers — being in relationship to the natural world.”

Students collect seeds of native grasses.

Tagging-Monarchs-Bret-Turner,-Shelly-Kofler“Ground them in a deep understanding of nature. Children map on their bodies. They absorb the feel, smell, sounds of the earth that nurture all life. That knowledge will help shape their minds and nervous systems — that is, if their parents provide the child-sized experiences they need, valuing it over screen time and virtual living.”


Monarch Tagging

One Of Nature’s Most Amazing Migrations: Volunteers Tag Monarchs As They Move Through Texas



During October Texans have a front-row seat for one of nature’s most amazing migrations — monarchs are moving through the state. And in West Dallas, some students are volunteering for a project that could help protect the species.

Nine members of the Nature Leaders Club at Rosemont Elementary gathered around their science teacher, Brett Turner, for some final instructions on how to tag monarch butterflies.

“The first thing we want to focus on is monarch safety,” Turner said. “When you do grab them make sure you hold them in the net.”
Sixth grader Candy Preciado wielded a butterfly net to catch monarchs for the tagging project.
Credit Shelley Kofler / KERA News

Armed with soft mesh nets attached to long wooden polls, they began a slow walk across the Twelve Hills Nature Preserve. Their mission: to carefully capture the world’s furthest migrating butterfly, and gently place an adhesive location tag the size of an eraser on a rear hind wing.

Joscelyn Segoviano, a sixth grader, knows just where to look for the fluttering, orange wings, laced with dramatic black veins.

“Right now the monarchs are coming back from Canada to Mexico,” she explained. “We’re looking for nectar plants because that’s probably where they’re going to stop and eat. That’s where we’re going to be able to catch them.”

Primetime for monarch migration

The odds of finding monarchs this time of year are pretty good because this is the height of the fall migration.

Last spring, monarchs passed through Texas as they flew north from their winter nesting grounds in Mexico, laying their eggs on milkweed and reproducing as they traveled. Those butterflies lived just three to five weeks.

This fourth generation that’s returning might live eight or nine months. Instead of reproducing, they’re saving their energy. They’re gorging on flower nectar to fuel a flight that lasts up to 2,000 miles and their hibernation until spring.

“This is one of the few organisms that actually gains in mass as it moves south. They need that gain because they live off that fat at the wintering sites in Mexico,” says Chip Taylor, the University of Kansas biologist who founded Monarch Watch, the tagging project for which the Dallas students have volunteered.

Herbicides a concern

In the past two decades, people have found more than 16,000 tagged butterflies and contacted Monarch Watch through the email or phone number on the tag. Taylor says the information is helping scientists understand the monarchs’ migration routes, how they’re affected by weather and how human activities might be contributing to a decline in the population.

Taylor says herbicides used on genetically-modified crops in the Midwest are a prime concern.

“They’ve come in there with Roundup-Ready corn and soybeans and they’ve spraying the fields with a herbicide and that has effectively eliminated milkweed from about 100 million acres of corn and soybeans. And that has driven the monarch population down,” Taylor says.

Taylor says protecting milkweed habitat in Texas is especially crucial because the monarchs pass through this state twice a year.

“Go to Mexico and be safe”

The West Dallas Nature Leaders are eager to do their part but they’re having a little trouble trapping their prey.

But Turner, the teacher, was prepared. He brought four captured monarchs just in case the students weren’t quick enough with their nets.

“Read me those six digits down at the bottom,” Turner told one student as he recorded the tag number, location of the release and the gender.

He told another student to peel the tag off a sticky sheet and carefully place it on the edge of a wing.

Cheers filled the preserve and students screamed “goodbye” as they released the tagged butterflies.

Sixth grader Candy Preciado was hopeful.

“I really want them to go to Mexico and be safe. And if somebody does catch them let us know,” she says.

She says she hopes to learn the butterflies tagged in Dallas make it home where they’ll begin the cycle of migration again next spring.

Why Mow?

Come early July, the vegetation at Twelve Hills will be mowed to a height of four to six inches.  Why have all the beautiful wildflowers been cut down, you wonder?

The intent is to restore and maintain Twelve Hills as an approximation of the blackland prairie ecosystem. Community members and school children will be able to experience a wildscape reminiscent of that present in this area when settlers arrived, before the land was drastically changed by the influences of modern man.

Prairies, diverse ecosystems of native grasses and forbs, interspersed with trees near bodies of water, stay that way because of the natural processes of recurrent fires and grazing by bison.  In an urban environment, these processes can not take place, so the land reverts to a forest.  Urban prairies are mowed twice a year to simulate the effects of  recurrent fires and grazing by bison.  This mowing takes place in early winter, after plants have set their seeds, and in July, to encourage the growth of grasses.  Mowing doesn’t work as well as fire to control non-native weeds, shrubs and trees, so some manual removal of invasive plants is necessary.