Nature

Visit East Fork Wetland Project: Water, Wildlife, and Family Legacy

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The East Fork Wetland Project’s original purpose was for the plants to naturally cleanse the extra nitrogen, phosphates, and ammonia from the river water, which is pumped back to Lake Lavon and used by multiple towns that depend on clean water from the NTMWD. The plants, such as pickerelweed, eelgrass, and bulrush, are specifically purposed for this. Four categories of plants (shoreline, emergent, floating, and submerged) thrive in a series of cells separated by levees and controlled by weirs (gates) that regulate the flow and depth of the water. Signs along the three-foot-wide boardwalk running through the cell closest to the Wetland Center describe the plants in greater detail, including the children’s rhyme: “Sedges have edges, Rushes are round, Grasses are hollow, what have you found?”

It’s hard to limit what we find to just one aspect of the Wetland Center; plants, reptiles, animals, birds, and technology all play a part in a healthy ecosystem, providing clean water to more than a dozen communities in North Texas. Executive Director John DeFillipo agrees. “To see this place change from a pasture to an emergent wetland to a matured wetland in about eight years has been phenomenal.”

And here comes the next generation of Wetland Project enthusiasts, both elementary and high school students that the Wetland Center is welcoming by the hundreds. Volunteers and area schools participate in educational programming and research opportunities that further the Center’s mission. A regular school field trip may blossom into a field ecology experience, transforming young minds and even career goals. “The children walk out on the boardwalk and their eyes open up,” DeFillipo says. “They look around, and then they slow down—and that connects them directly with the environment. They write me letters exclaiming ‘I didn’t know this was here!’ or ‘You get paid for this?’” as they learn about careers in environmental science.” DeFillipo adds, “My big dream is that a student would come through these doors and leave thinking, ‘I can do that,’ whether it’s a career or finding a solution to our future water needs.”

Visit East Fork Wetland Project: Water, Wildlife, and Family Legacy
Photo: John Spaulding.