For passersby, the field is an ever-increasing eye sore, cluttered with dying vegetation and various other hazardous materials. But for D’Anna Green the field is blooming with potential.
Green visualizes a trail weaving in and out of lush greenery as its joggers pass birdhouses and wildlife feeders. She can picture an atrium brimming with students in a creative writing class at Stephenville High School.
Yes, in that vacant field, Green sees an outdoor education nature trail waiting for a chance to spring to life.
Green, a physical education outdoor adventure teacher, has been working for several years to make something out of nothing on the vacant lot. She has written several grants and recruited fellow teachers to back up her goal.
The trail, which has tentatively been named the Stephenville Outdoor Education Nature Trail, would provide outdoor education opportunities to kindergarten through 12th graders.
It would offer students the ability to study nature in several different classroom environments from science to creative writing.
“I could use the trail as the introduction to my students’ nature journal writing,” Lise Schwartzkopf, head of the English Department at Stephenville High School, said. “This would be an excellent place for me to point out the many things that can be observed and used as subjects for writing. The nature trail entries can then be used as a springboard for poetry, short stories, drama, photography and artwork. Last, English teachers could use it to introduce authors such as Henry David Thoreau, Beatrice Potter and Annie Dillard.”
The vacant lot is centrally located between Stephenville High School, Henderson Junior High and Gilbert Intermediate, opening it up for the use of three Stephenville ISD campuses. The 15-acre area currently has a pond on its north end and is located in the FEMA flood plain, which prevents it from being developed, Green said.
“We want this to be a 15-acre outdoor classroom,” Green said. “We need volunteers to be on a committee to get it organized. It’s going to take thousands of dollars to do this.”
Green came up with the idea while attending a two-week program called Conservation Across Boundaries where she studied and compared ecosystems in Montana and Texas. Although she has filed for grants and solicited funding from several organizations in Stephenville, Green has not received enough funding to make her dream a reality.
“We want this to be something huge,” Stephenville Police Officer James Kennerly, who is supporting Green’s efforts, said.
Green has received the support of the Stephenville Independent School District board of trustees, but the board cannot provide the financial means to carry out the project. Green also filed for a grant from Goody’s, a department store, but it closed its Stephenville location shortly after the paperwork was sent.
“It is a fantastic idea that she came up with,” Kennerly said. “It is something that could be used to benefit the community - if we get enough folks interested.”
Phase one of the project would include clearing the 15-acre lot of brush, other vegetation and trash, as well as dredging the pond and adding new aquatic life.
In addition to the aesthetics and educational opportunities the trail would provide, it would provide a safer transition for students as they travel to their respective campuses and would limit truancies.
Kennerly said students would not have to cross busy streets to walk to school and could prevent other activities from taking place in the wooded area.
Green and Kennerly are currently looking for a few good men and women to become part of the trail committee and spearhead the project. Interested individuals can call Green at 254-592-4788, e-mail Green at firstname.lastname@example.org or Kennerly at email@example.com.