The Fort Worth Tandy Hills Natural Area's big supporter is changing the way it fundraises in 2012.
The nonprofit Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area is shifting its biggest fundraiser of the year into three smaller events.
Last year, the now-7-year-old Prairie Fest brought 150 vendors and more people than there was parking. The group will now hold three smaller Saturday events over three months in the spring with wildflower tours, entertainment and educational opportunities.
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"So we're depending more on sponsors this year than ever before to fund this critical program that helps take up the slack," said Don Young, of the Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area.
Proceeds also go to maintaining the natural area.
The Tandy Hills Natural Area could arguably be called one of Fort Worth's best-kept secrets. The 160-acre park sits just south of Interstate 30 and west of Oakland Boulevard.
Experts say the site is a rarity because nothing has ever been built on the land, no cattle has grazed there and you can find 500 different plant species.
"This is a tiny little piece of what's left of what our ancestors saw when they came here a long time ago," Young said.
The city first took ownership of the property in 1960, but it took nearly 40 years for the city and residents to realize its potential as a natural wonder in a city as big as Fort Worth, Young said.
"We're definitely on the radar now," Young said, in reference to residents using the park and the city working with supporters to maintain its pristine qualities.
Every day thousands of cars pass by, but the area itself doesn't see a whole lot of traffic.
"It doesn't seem like they advertise enough for this place. I think they should," Robert De La Garza said.
Like many people, he's discovering what the park has to offer. He found out about the area by searching online and has brought his dogs out for a hike a few times.
The Friends of Tandy Hills have found its calling in maintaining the natural area and bringing more people to it through educational programs.
"[We've been] bringing out fourth-graders, starting last year, from the local Meadowbrook Elementary School, and we will continue that in 2012," Young said.
He said supporters would like to expand the program with the Fort Worth Independent School District beyond just the local Meadowbrook neighborhood schools.
The group hopes that, by reaching out to students when they're young and getting them involved in the maintaining of the natural area in an urban setting, the better it is for the nonprofit and the area itself.
"We feel like there will be kids in the future who will take care of this park when people like me aren't around anymore," Young said.
Several other events are being held at the Tandy Hills Park and Natural Area. On Jan. 7, the Friends of Tandy Hills will host the Manly Men and Wild Women Hike, which covers the 160-acre site, end to end, in what Young said is a pretty tough 4-mile hike.
Also in January, the park hosts the annual Brush Bash, in which volunteers help haul out overgrown plants to maintain the prairie's natural look. For more information, click here.