The Nature Preserve, known by park patrons as the gem of southwest Arlington, was dedicated last month in honor of Sheri Capehart, a passionate environmentalist, animal lover and community leader who is also Arlington’s longest-serving City Council member.
Capehart served as the District 2 representative from 2000 to 2020 and led the efforts to acquire what is now the 59-acre, scenic nature preserve at 5201 Bowman Springs Road.
She is the second of 11 trailblazers, civic leaders and faith leaders tapped by the City’s Honorary Naming Recognition Task Force to be recognized for their service or their contributions to the city. Past and present City Council representatives, volunteers who assist with the maintenance of the nature preserve, City leadership and community members were among the many who attended the dedication ceremony to celebrate Capehart’s lasting legacy.
“She hasn’t met a problem she couldn’t solve,” Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Victoria Farrar-Myers, who served as chair of the Honorary Naming Recognition Task Force, said during Monday’s ceremony. “She set a high example of 20 years of selfless service to this city. It gives us great honor to dedicate this preserve. Generations to come will realize when they see Sheri Capehart’s name, they are seeing someone who stood up and said that one person can make a difference. All it takes is heart, a little grit and a lot of motivation.”
Capehart said she was deeply honored by the City’s decision to dedicate the preserve in her name. The popular park destination, previously known as the Southwest Nature Preserve, opened as the City’s largest wildscape park on Oct. 19, 2013. It features three ponds, a fishing pier, a terraced outdoor seating and education area, a hike and bike trail, and more than 1,400 species of plants and animals.
Capehart said her parents instilled in her the intrinsic value of nature as she learned to garden, to identify birds by sight and song, to understand the land is finite and to appreciate the beauty of trees. She said she encourages, supports, and enjoys Arlington’s parks and green spaces for the opportunities they provide all people to experience nature.
“Yes, people need roads; yes, they need good water, they need fire and police, they need their trash picked up regularly. They need all those things, and that is what the City is here to provide” Capehart said at the event. “But they cannot thrive without recreation and open space and places to commune with nature and what God has given us. We need to protect this. We need to appreciate and value it and we need to understand what a true blessing it is to all of us.”
Arlington is unique in having the largest remaining portion of the Eastern Cross Timbers Forest, and Capehart’s advocacy led to revisions of the City’s Tree Ordinance that focuses on preservation of these native oaks. According to the Cross Timbers Urban Forestry Council in Arlington, the areas of ancient Cross Timbers still remaining are some of the last virgin North American hardwood forests.
The Nature Preserve’s habitats are also critical to many of the pollinators, including the Monarch butterflies. The City of Arlington has achieved the National Wildlife accreditation of Champion Status by completing the Mayor’s Monarch Challenge as a Monarch city, which includes providing waystations for migrating Monarchs and the planting of native milkweed. Additional environmental accreditations include Tree City USA from the Arbor Day Foundation and Bee City USA from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. Capehart’s advocacy was a crucial part of each of these successful initiatives.
At the event, friends and colleagues said Capehart’s approach to municipal government was always about the people and the quality of service the city provided to its citizens. Her passion for the natural environment was evident from the beginning of her tenure not only as a leader of the city, but as a member of and volunteer for numerous organizations whose focus aligned with her priorities.
Capehart represented numerous local, state, and national boards, including the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation, Executive Board of the North Central Texas Council of Government, the Regional Transportation Council, Arlington Life Shelter, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the board of the National League of Cities, and as Executive Board Member of Sister Cities International.
Capehart, who also served as Deputy Mayor Pro Tempore and Mayor Pro Tempore during her time on Council, received the Sally Kallam Outstanding Leadership Award from Leadership Arlington in 2009 and the Woman of the Year Award in 2016 from the American Association of University Women.
“Sheri has done a great job of representing not only the interests of her district, but the city as a whole. She’s a role model. She’s a consummate example of public service in the finest form,” former Mayor Richard Greene said during the dedication ceremony.