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Natural Awakenings Dallas -Fort Worth Metroplex Edition


Triple Bottom Line John Bunker Sands Wetland Center is Growing: Unique Partnership Addresses Water Needs While Promoting Environmental Stewardship

Mar 31, 2021 08:30AM ● By Sheila Julson
Wetlands are nature’s original water filtration system, removing chemicals and sediment from runoff before it reaches waterways that supply our municipal drinking water. They also provide native plant and wildlife habitat, creating an ecosystem crucial to human and animal health. The John Bunker Sands Wetland Center partnership combines water reuse with wetland conservation and environmental stewardship programs.

In 1980, the late John Bunker Sands, executive director of the Rosewood Corporation, owner of Rosewood cattle ranch, in Seagoville, recognized the importance of wetlands. His restoration work led to 2,100 acres of seasonal wetlands located within the Trinity River basin. Today, 1,840 acres of that land is being used by the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) for the East Fork Water Reuse project, one of the management strategies to supply drinking water for a rapidly growing region north of Dallas. NTMWD partnered with the Rosewood Corporation to develop 800 of those wetland acres as the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center, with a mission if teaching nature conservation and stewardship to adults and children.

The John Bunker Sands Wetlands center is one of only three projects of its kind in the United States. The unique system incorporates the diversion of wastewater through the wetland, where it is naturally filtered and purified by native plants. The wetlands act as a sponge to absorb excess water and sediment, while naturally filtered water is eventually pumped into Lavon Lake, a major reservoir.

“It is a continual indirect potable reuse system, in that the water is used, reused and then it’s put back into our system,” says Denise Hickey, water resource and public education Manager for NTMWD. “It’s a long-range water project that helps meet the growing water supply needs in our area. It’s also drought-proof and will provide a continual flow of effluent based on the amount of water that we use within our homes for cooking, cleaning, bathing and showering.”

Education, Conservation and Recreation Programs for All

John DeFillipo has been director of the John Bunker Sands Wetlands Center for a decade. During that time, he’s seen exponential increase in wildlife diversity at the center. Reptiles, frogs, snakes, skunks, raccoons, American mink and even bald eagles make themselves at home on wetland property. More than 260 different bird species have been spotted. American mink and even bald eagles make themselves at home on wetland property.

DeFillipo says the Wetlands Center promotes environmental education and advocacy to middle school, high school and college students. “We raise awareness of where their drinking water comes from,” he explains. “What they are seeing and learning about is an actual human water supply. That really opens people’s eyes and gets them thinking about water conservation and how ecosystems work.”

The Wetland Ecology program lets students take an immersive walk on the boardwalk, where they collect water and soil samples to analyze and share their findings. By means of “talk and trade”, they learn about careers available in wildlife conservation and water sciences.

Kids programs open to the public this spring include the Wetland Explorers, in which kids can participate in hands-on field experience classes. Programs for families and adults feature Before the S’Mores, a monthly open house-style program featuring a variety of themes and family activities. During the Wild Edibles workshop, Wetland Steward Bob Richie shares his passion for urban foraging. The Wetlands Center also organizes volunteer activities such as highway cleanups.

The Center is a popular spot for birdwatchers, artists, photographers, hikers, trail runners and cyclists. This month, the Wetland Center will begin construction on a new facility with additional classrooms to accommodate more student groups and workshops. There will be an outdoor terrace and stage area for wedding and event rental.

DeFillipo says his ultimate goal is to inspire visitors to become good stewards—and for them to spread the word. “I want them to leave and tell others about the Wetlands Center and how it inspired them. That’s truly how conservation works,” he notes.

John Bunker Sands Wetland Center is located at 655 Martin Ln., in Seagoville. For more information, call 972-474-9100 or visit
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