Master Naturalist Richard Grayson invited Dr Sansom ahead of a planned speaking engagement at the Trinity River Audubon Center. The trip from the airport to the Audubon Center included a visit to Big Spring and walk with DFW biologists through one of the great wildscape spots inside the heart of Dallas.
|Big Spring in the cool foggy weather of December 3, 2014|
One of the only natural springs in Dallas, Big Spring flows at a steady temperature year round with crystal clear and clean water. The land surrounding it features centuries old trees and a large Native American archeological site known as 41DL72. The ancient waters of Big Spring flow directly out of Ice Age sands in the Great Trinity Forest. Water dated to the Late Archaic. Water so clear that in photos it looks invisible to the eye.
|Watercress growing across a blanketed bottom of oak leaves at Big Spring|
|Arrowhead leaves poking through the water at Big Spring|
Big Spring is an oasis of natural tranquility in a difficult neighborhood. The acute nature of blight in the zip code coupled with increasing misadventures in new construction adds to the spirited conversation of how Big Spring and the aquifer that supplies it remains viable for generations to come.
In 2014 alone, the City of Dallas has removed thousands of trees for private construction purposes in the public parkland known as The Great Trinity Forest, illegally drained wetlands subject to sanction by the TCEQ and EPA. Now they are draining the same shallow aquifer for construction activities that shares the geology with Big Spring. The high residency times for water in the shallow aquifer suggest that the rate of recharge is quite slow.
Texas Stream Team Water Monitoring At Big Spring
|Texas Stream Team Coordinator Richard Grayson points out the key features to Big Spring with Dr Sansom looking on. Texas Parks and Wildlife Biologist Derek Broman on opposing shore|
The Texas Stream Team is based at Texas State University and is affiliated directly with The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment. The Stream Team is a partnership of agencies and trained volunteers working together to monitor water quality and educate Texans about the natural resources in the state. Established in 1991, the team is administered through a cooperative partnership with Texas State, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Statewide more than two thousand volunteers are trained to collect water samples according to a water quality plan approved by TCEQ and EPA. The monitors make field observations and analyze
the samples for dissolved oxygen, pH, specific conductance, Secchi depth transparency, temperature, and E. coli to assess the quality of aquatic life and contact recreation conditions of the water.
The December 2014 edition of Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine has a great writeup on the Texas Stream Team and the work done to highlight water quality concerns at places like Big Spring.
Since water monitoring began at Big Spring, volunteers have logged more than 150 hours of work. Many have assisted in testing the water at Big Spring since inception. Boy Scouts, high school students and even Southern Methodist University Engineer's Without Borders have attended monitoring events at Big Spring. Water samples are collected monthly with on site testing for pH, dissolved oxygen. E.coli testing is done offsite at the offices of For The Love Of The Lake at Casa Linda.
Big Spring has two data testing sites in conjunction with the Texas Stream Team. The sites are
#80939 Big Spring Source
#80965 Big Spring Pond
One set of tests are conducted at the head of Big Spring using an 80cm copper pipe which is placed horizontally into the head itself under the bank. This allows for accurate testing for e.coli and limits the chance for any error.
An additional battery of tests are conducted in the pond itself. The pond testing site allows for a better gauge of dissolved oxygen in the spring, E.coli and general health of the environment in the vicinity.
The data collection as time goes on will establish clearer protocols for future activities around the spring site. While nearly 40 individual tests have been conducted between theses two sites, the data needs more points to form a valid statement on what makes the spring tick. One idea is a detailed aquifer study that would develop a hydrology model for this part of Dallas so that the spring can be better understood.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Urban Biologists
|Texas Parks and Wildlife Biologists Brett Johnson and Derek Broman talk to Andy Sansom of their great successes with their work in DFW. Their work and programs were greatly enhanced by work done by Dr Sansom as executive director of TPWD.|
|TPWD Biologist Derek Broman at right talks about bobcats and animal tracks|
|TPWD Biologist Brett Johnson talks about conservation efforts at Big Spring and the wildlife diversity as he walks at Big Spring with Andrew Sansom left and Richard Grayson center|
Both Broman and Johnson have been working on a variety of animal tracking projects that involve citizen engagement at the very core. Urban bobcat study is near the top of that list with detailed observations, game cameras and tracking programs. You can follow Derek Broman's projects on a website called inaturalist. Derek's bobcat study area is 49,000 acres bordered by SH 183 to the north, SH161 to the east, SH180 to the south and Interstate 820 to the west in what we call the mid-cities area of the metroplex. Derek was featured in a great piece in the Dallas Morning News by Ray Sasser this year about the project http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/more-sports/outdoors/20140503-trying-to-explain-more-about-largely-unseen-bobcats-in-d-fw-area.ece
|TPWD Biologist Brett Johnson points out some areas in the coneflower field and treeline beyond where the Big Spring Wildfire burned their hottest in July 2014|
Bryan's Slough and Beyond
|Becky Rader explains Bryan's Slough that is fed by Big Spring and drains into White Rock Creek|
Big Spring drains into the first order stream known as Bryan's Slough in this neighborhood(known also as Oak Creek to the north). From Big Spring the slough meanders south and southwest where it joins White Rock Creek near the mouth with the Trinity River. I often tell people that if you want to see what White Rock Lake looked like before a lake existed come see lower White Rock Creek.
Becky Rader has an extensive knowledge of the flora and fauna in this watershed. Her tireless efforts for preservation and restoration at White Rock Lake are seen by every visitor to White Rock Lake in the prairie hillsides and woods that surround the park. She has just authored a book on White Rock Lake's wildlife entitled Nature's Images Of White Rock Lake Park co-authored with the late George Boyd. Fascinating look at the amount of animals seen in that watershed and in such an urban landscape.
|White Aster flowers in full bloom at the Big Spring meadow December 3, 2014|
|Edward Case Pemberton homestead site|
That vantage point sits on a humble piece of farm property currently owned for 135 years, come 2015 by the Pemberton family.
At this spot once stood a log cabin built in 1880. Land purchased from Margaret Beeman Bryan, the widow of John Neely Bryan, the founder of Dallas. Noted in a tilled area above. This spot served as a blacksmithing area for a dairy farm operation owned by Edward Case Pemberton.
The view at Big Spring has never really changed much in the last 135 years. Only the horizon beyond. What was once prairie and bottomland trees turned in that amount of time into one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States.
|From the Texas Historical Marker on the Dallas County Courthouse Square|
|Billy Ray Pemberton, grandson of Edward Case Pemberton, standing at a cabin dedicated to John Neely Bryan, founder of Dallas, Texas. The plaque carries the Pemberton name of Gideon Pemberton a relative of Billy Ray.|
Water and conservation of the resource were of paramount importance to those first settlers to found Dallas. As the city grows ever larger and demands become greater, the fragility of Big Spring and places like it will take center stage. It is hoped on a state level that organizations like The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment can act as a guiding light in sound and reasonable decision making with regards to Texas most precious natural resource, water.