City of Dallas Acquires Nearly 300-Acre Big Cedar Wilderness for Park System

Wednesday's vote by the Dallas City Council will preserve the property in perpetuity and ensure that future generations of Dallas residents can enjoy the benefits of nature the city has to offer.

The city of Dallas is acquiring a nearly 300-acre property in Southwestern Dallas known as Big Cedar Wilderness, following a vote Wednesday by the Dallas City Council.

The council’s vote will preserve the property in perpetuity, ensuring that future generations of Dallas residents can enjoy the benefits of nature the city has to offer.

“Today, we took another major step toward achieving our goal of becoming the city with the best park system in Texas,” Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said in a statement. “Big Cedar Wilderness is a critical amenity, and our commitment to preserving and enhancing it will ensure more Dallas residents have the opportunity to enjoy this exceptional green haven.”

Hiking and biking amid more than 50,000 trees

Big Cedar Wilderness is a 282-acre property in southwestern Dallas that will be preserved as city of Dallas park land. It’s part of the Balcones escarpment and includes various hiking and mountain biking trails, pristine wildlife habitat, and more than 50,000 trees. The terrain includes numerous hills and cliffs, as well as various creeks and tributaries.

The Trust for Public Land said that for decades, mountain bikers, hikers, birdwatchers, and faith groups have used the privately owned property for recreation and respite.

Land donated by Brad Philips and his Liberty Bankers Insurance Group

Big Cedar Wilderness in Dallas. [Photo: City of Dallas]

Via the generosity of Brad Philips and his company, Liberty Bankers Insurance Group, the support of Trust for Public Land, and the city of Dallas’ Reforestation Fund, the property will be preserved as a natural area and public park.

The 282-acre parcel of land that lies just north of Cedar Ridge Preserve has been privately held by Phillips and Liberty Bankers Insurance Group, and is estimated to be worth more than $17 million, TPL said.

Recently, Phillips, who had run on the trails at Big Cedar when he was younger, made the decision to preserve the property and all its natural beauty by donating it to Trust for Public Land so it could be forever protected as public parkland.

“I’m proud to be a part of the preservation of Big Cedar Wilderness,” Phillips said in a statement. “I look forward to watching it continue to prosper and serve outdoor enthusiasts both locally and beyond.”

Plan in the works for more than a year

For the past 14 months, Trust for Public Land has worked with Phillips, the city of Dallas and community stakeholders among others to secure the property. Once the city’s acquisition is complete this summer, TPL will continue to collaborate with the Park and Recreation Department and community stakeholders to enhance the existing amenities and plan for greater ease of access.

“One of the most special aspects of Big Cedar Wilderness are the passionate and dedicated people who have cherished this greenspace for decades,” Robert Kent, Texas State Director for Trust for Public Land, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with these stakeholders and community members to help make Big Cedar Wilderness an even better place to engage with nature, improve health, and to connect with each other.”

Hilly topography to delight hikers and bikers

The city has worked to grow its hiking and biking resources and this acquisition will add to its network of trails. With up to 200 feet of elevation change, few locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area can offer such a large collection of trails with comparable rolling topography for hikers and bikers.

“We’re blessed in District 3 to have unmatched outdoor amenities that welcome enthusiasts from all over the city and other parts of the state,” Dallas City Councilmember Casey Thomas said in a statement. “It’s exciting to know that more residents and visitors will be able to enjoy the beautiful slice of nature we have in Big Cedar.”

Preserving Big Cedar will add nearly 300 acres to the nature corridor in southwestern Dallas that includes Cedar Ridge Preserve, Cedar Hill State Park, and the Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center, the city said. The addition signifies the city’s commitment to conservation in Dallas and adds greater continuous native habitat to the area.

“Dallas Park and Recreation is extremely grateful and we are prepared to be thoughtful stewards of Mr. Phillips’ generosity and Trust for Public Land’s leadership,” Arun Agarwal, president of the Dallas Park Board. “Our staff is already working to ensure Big Cedar is planned to fit well with our existing network of parks and trails.”

TPL said it plans to have a celebration of Big Cedar Wilderness in the coming weeks at the Patriot Pavilion near 8991 Isom Lane in Dallas.

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