Dallas’ Amy Martin is advocating for more natural trails in Dallas and frequently writes about her passion in books and other publications.
The need for more open spaces will become more significant as the area grows and more people turn to the outdoors for recreation, Martin told The Dallas Express in an interview earlier in the week.
If City leaders would look to the future, they would find that spending taxpayer money on trail system improvements would pay off in terms of an increase in ecotourism and a better quality of life for residents, she added. Martin said the Great Trinity Forest, in particular, is remarkably underused.
“We can easily and sensitively put in more trails and not harm the wildlife or the ecology,” said Martin, author of the book Wild DFW: Explore the Amazing Nature Around Dallas-Fort Worth. Martin is also a board member for both the Dallas County Parks & Open Space program and Dallas County Preserves.
“There is a missed opportunity for nature tourism business based on the Great Trinity Forest because it is such a rare thing … to be so wild but be in the middle of the city,” Martin said. “There is a lot of municipal land that could greatly benefit from more trails and parks.”
Expansion of Great Trinity Forest natural trails and other outdoor opportunities would be a boon for birdwatchers, hikers, and anyone who needs fresh air and exercise, Martin said, “for our own mental health.”
“It should be a top priority,” she added. “Instead of spending and lavishing so much time and money on other aspects of the parks, we need to do some catch-up really soon on the shortage of natural trails.”
Martin said natural trails cost a fraction of what paved trails do, even when professional contractors build them, and taxpayers would be shocked by how much money is going into paved trails that so few people use.
“There are seven to 10 times more hikers and walkers than bikers and runners,” Martin claimed. “Hikers are a broad-based demographic. More than half of hikers are women. … They take their kids on natural trails. It helps them with their focus and attention and gets them off the phone. People who are elderly enjoy these soft-surface trails. They are quieter and safer. They don’t want to dodge fast-moving bicycles.”
Martin encouraged the City to promote the Great Trinity Forest for increased tourism and economic development.
“People who are coming into Dallas are coming for business or for things to do,” Martin said. “If you say, ‘We have 30 miles of trails in the Great Trinity Forest and places you can stay and eat within 15 minutes of the trailhead,’ that’s a significant tourism pitch. That’s particularly the case for people who want to go to a warmer city in the winter.”
Martin has been a freelance writer for 40 years and helps publish a weekly newsletter for Green Source DFW. She is also writing the biography of Edward C. “Ned” Fritz, who helped convince voters to fund Dallas County’s open space system. Fritz died in 2008.
“He convinced voters that turning the Trinity River into a barge canal from Fort Worth to the Gulf of Mexico was a bad idea,” Martin said, referring to state and federal efforts to fund the 300-mile project in the 1950s and 1960s. “Had that barge canal succeeded, we would have concrete running through downtown Dallas right now. The Trinity Forest would have been pretty much decimated.”
Martin, 66, said her interest in nature was inspired by her father, J.A. Martin, who was “a poor country boy but a powerful believer in education.” She said he wanted his children to live in the city and also have a house on a creek.
“We lived on a tributary of White Rock Creek,” Martin said. “Being a ‘creek kid’ really influenced me. You could get away from everything there. I was a bookish little kid, and I could find a lot of peace and quiet down there. It aroused my curiosity.”
“I wondered where the creek went, what lived in the creek, and where its water came from. I wondered if I could live off the plants I found in the creek — things like that. I could fantasize about being different characters. As a writer, it made a wonderful palette on which I could imagine stories. That did it for me, access to a creek,” Martin added.
Martin said learning more about nature enhances one’s view of nature.
“We have fears of nature that are overblown,” she said. “Once you learn about snakes, spiders, and even coyotes, they don’t care about you. They want to be left alone. People move here by the thousands and expect nature here to be like back home. It’s not. Dallas and the Trinity River are unique and are worth getting to know.”