Duncanville Nature Preserve Approved at Packed July 18 Council Meeting

Duncanville Nature Preserve approved
Holt photo

A large crowd turned out for the July 18th Duncanville City Council meeting, many of them supporters of the Ladd Preservation Advocacy Group. They are passionate proponents for designating the 42-acre “Ladd Property” tract as a nature preserve. These citizens have petitioned the city to preserve the land and not allow commercial development.

The 42-acre tract is bounded by Cedar Hill, Santa Fe, and Danieldale Roads, and was donated to the city by the Ladd family in 1998. The deed restricts any commercial or residential development to less than 49% of the tract, while 51% must remain green space. Ten Mile Creek runs through the property, along with a gas pipeline that makes development more difficult.

Near the end of the nearly five-hour long July 18 meeting, the council approved four zoning ordinances with the goal of establishing a nature preserve in a conservation district.

Nature Preserve Advocate Mark Graham

Mark Graham, a local photographer and educator, has been the leading force in advocating to have the property designated a nature preserve. Graham lives near the property, and spends his free time there, walking his dog, picking up trash, and taking photos that he often shares on community platforms.

After the council meeting, Graham said the advocacy group is happy with the outcome, and ready to get to work. He appreciated how City Attorney Hager worked to help clarify the legal language necessary “to get things like we wanted. Why it seems so hard to get something such as this done is always a head scratcher to me,” Graham added.

Duncanville Nature Preserve advocates
Ladd Advocacy supporters photo by Holt

Nature Preserve Going Forward

“Next will be everyone readjusting to the next round. Fundraising has to get started. Getting volunteers on board. Getting nature groups such as Texas Master Naturalists to see the needs there and get them involved more is key. They already help with species identification but trails and trash and restoration is something they can really help us with. A true chain of command for different needs on the land is imperative. Who does what and making sure people commit to do what is expected,” Graham said.

Graham deserves praise for his tireless pursuit of a nature preserve for the community. In earlier comments to this newspaper, he said, “I want the land to remain natural forever and to have areas of it returned to a Blackland Prairie much as this whole area once was. A return of the open fields to become seas of native tall grasses, wildflowers, plus flowering plants that attract bees and butterflies is also what I hope for. Plants that once they take hold require little upkeep. I would love to see the fields returned to a state where they can be sustained with minimal human help.”

Graham later posted these comments on the NextDoor community site: “The Charles F Ladd Nature Preserve update. The land is officially protected as a nature preserve. Last night, as midnight approached, the city council officially passed all the measures needed to make the Ladd a preserve.

Thank You Duncanville

My involvement with this effort goes way back. To everyone who got on board as the movement grew, thank you. And I do mean everyone. A campaign driven by citizens will include every type of personality imaginable. That is a given and necessary simply by how broad our citizenry is. And all, every personality, has worked toward the same goal. In the end, the land is all that mattered. For myself anyway.

nature preserve
Mark Graham at nature preserve photo by Holt

This is a huge win by everyone in Duncanville and the surrounding areas. Maybe saying I love all involved with this sounds trite, but seeing this preserve happen has been a labor of love for me. Seeing people embrace the land has been reaffirming. This is an incredible achievement done by all involved. This is an incredibly positive step in the right direction in a time when any good needs to be acknowledged and made note of.

You, the citizens of Duncanville did this.”

District 3 City Councilman Jeremy Koontz

Councilman Koontz has also been an ally and proponent for the property being designated a nature preserve. Koontz says, “From my perspective, this was more than just about a nature preserve. This was about democracy, the power of citizen engagement, and about reawakening the community spirit in Duncanville. This single cause brought together more people and inspired more volunteerism than anything anyone can remember here since the construction of Kidsville in the 1980s.”

Ladd natural area creek
Ladd Property advocate Jeremy Koontz at Ten Mile Creek


“Duncanville has also taken the time to do something most cities do not do, which is create a zoning designation for a nature preserve. Just calling a piece of land a preserve is one thing, but adding zoning regulations and land use restrictions is another level of protection.”.

“I do not see this as a situation where some people won and others lost. I believe time will show this to have been a win for the entire community, past, present, and future. I hope everyone, even those who were opposed to this effort, will find some way to get involved in making this a true legacy project that will endure for generations.”

“As far as next steps, we still need to officially name the preserve, and I believe it’s necessary for the Duncanville Nature Conservancy to work with the Parks Board in developing some recommendations for use regulations, e.g., restrictions on vehicular access, rules for interacting with wildlife, etc.”

Duncanville nature preserve 10 mile creek
Holt photo

Duncanville Nature Conservancy

From the Duncanville Nature Conservancy (dncinc.org) website: The Charles F. Ladd Nature Preserve will be Duncanville’s backyard destination and retreat from overcrowded, concrete-laden spaces to learn, explore, and relax. This centrally located nature preserve and education center will be a collaborative community effort, and will include minimally invasive architecture, ongoing conservation and preservation efforts, education and awareness through the use of technology, as well as cultural and artistic enrichment.”

For more information, including a detailed history and descriptions of the property along with photos and other information, please visit dncinc.org.

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Jo Ann Holt
Jo Ann Holt is an award-winning journalist with 40+ years of experience as a writer and editor. She loves live performances, from country music concerts to Broadway musicals to community theatre productions. Holt also enjoys art and cultural festivals, and good food and wine. She’s toured Amsterdam, London, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and various cities in Mexico but looks forward to visiting even more countries. She has traveled by boat, plane, and train, but especially likes taking long road trips across the U.S. with her husband, retired history professor Durhl Caussey. They enjoy meeting friendly people, learning about different cultures, and visiting historic sites wherever they go.