On the day the Fort Worth Nature Center unveiled its new viewing decks, the bison were slow to come out and play. 

Storms had twice delayed a ribbon-cutting ceremony, but the third time was the charm at the center’s annual Fort Worth Wild fundraiser on April 27. 

Supporters of the center got their first look at the new decks, which offer scenic views over two pastures where bison and deer freely roam. The center also plans to use the decks to expand their educational programs for school groups. 

The center has been home to the only publicly accessible bison herd in North Texas for the past 50 years. Today, the herd of 18 bison is rotated among five pastures of about 210 acres. 

Accessible via ramps and a staircase connected to an existing trail, the 8- and 14-foot-tall decks will allow visitors to view bison eight months out of the year. 

The project – sponsored by the Ryan Foundation, H-E-B, Anchor Construction and Friends of the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge – has been in the works since at least October 2020, said Josh Jacka, senior project manager at Anchor Construction. 

Construction began last July and lasted for about four months. Jacka’s crew was focused on conserving as much of the natural landscape as possible while also creating a unique experience for visitors, he said. 

“We did our best to not take out any trees and work around nature, and even halfway through the project, we slightly changed how the deck is laid out instead of knocking down some larger trees,” Jacka said. 

The nature center originally planned to debut the decks at a grand opening in November. But the event was rained out, as was a rescheduled ceremony in March. 

After a cloudy morning, the sky was clear by the time guests began arriving April 27. While the bison herd was elusive for most of the evening, visitors will have plenty of chances to see the wild animals during the spring, summer and fall seasons, Jacka said. 

“We want people to feel connected to nature,” Jacka said. “It was cool for me coming out here and reconnecting. It’s rare to go to a job site and it’s completely quiet. You can hear the birds chirping.” 

Disclosure: The Fort Worth Wild fundraiser featured a tribute to Bill Meadows, who is a board member of the Fort Worth Report. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at haley.samsel@fortworthreport.org.

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Haley SamselEnvironmental Reporter

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at haley.samsel@fortworthreport.org. Her coverage is made possible by a grant from the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman...