The Texas Buckeye Trail Ben Sandifer

Nature

It’s Time to Rename the Texas Buckeye Trail

Ned and Genie Fritz deserve their due.

Sometime this month in the Great Trinity Forest, a tiny miracle of nature will transpire, as it has every year for centuries. A grove of Texas buckeyes will unfurl their gaudy white blooms and announce that spring has officially arrived. You can see this display for yourself. There is a network of soft paths and a concrete trail through the forest called the Texas Buckeye Trail, a trek down which we suggest in “71 Great Saturdays in Dallas.” But there’s one problem with the Texas Buckeye Trail: it needs a new name.

Late last year, an environmental organization called Groundwork Dallas suggested on its blog a radical but not new idea that I would herewith like to bring to a larger audience (all due respect to Groundwork Dallas’ blog). We should rename the Texas Buckeye Trail the Ned and Genie Fritz Trail. If you don’t know the name Fritz, that is all the more reason.

Space prevents anywhere near a full accounting of Ned’s life. The short version: born 1916. Navy flight instructor in World War II. Came to Dallas for an SMU law degree. Worked with his wife, Genie, to protect hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness all across the state of Texas from ruination by forces both federal and local. Founded the Texas Land Conservancy, the Texas League of Conservation Voters, and the Dallas Audubon Society. Successfully fought a mob-funded real estate scheme in 1973 that would have led to the destruction of the Trinity Forest and the canalizing of the Trinity River from Dallas to the Gulf Coast. And, oh yeah, Ned created the Texas Buckeye Trail. 

If you want a fuller picture of what he accomplished before his death, in 2008, visit the collection of his papers maintained by SMU’s DeGolyer Library. The online portal is a rabbit hole whose entrance, if you’re susceptible to such things, you should not approach unless you have several hours to lose. 

But back to the trail. Dallas seems to rename something every few years. Oakland Avenue became Malcolm X Boulevard. Industrial became Riverfront. Lee Park became Oak Lawn Park (and, from what I hear, might be headed toward Stanley Marcus Park). Each change generated consternation. This one won’t. We should be able to get it done before the buckeyes’ next bloom. I’m sure Genie, who is in her 90s and still lives in Dallas, would welcome the honor.  

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