Guarantee Animal Encounters

All donors were thrilled when it came time to pour and install their sculptures, but we did hear comments like “Why is it taking so long?” and “What is the completion date?” Supporters wanted to see an ending. So we decided to hold a celebration honoring the 24 donors and announce the completion of Phase I and kick off Phase II. A reception was held at the art foundry and a “jaguar” bronze was poured for education and entertainment purposes. All 24 donors for Phase I were presented with a framed photograph of their “sculpture,” and the advisory board invited new donors to join the family circle. We received commitments for six more sculptures that evening, which will take the artist 12 to 16 months to complete. For those who may be considering a sculpture trail, it takes time—so be patient! 

Planning For Interaction 

The Forest Sculpture Trail is a unique attraction as it integrates art and nature. Our granite gravel trail is a half-mile long and shaded by ebony and mesquite trees. The sculpture species have all been placed in their “habitats,” so there is a treasure hunt going on—a mountain lion might surprise you around the bend! We have themed trails based on a story line. For instance, the Cat Trail features the six wild cats of Texas. The jaguar, jaguarundi, ocelot, and margay are all listed as “endangered.” In addition, Texas also claims as residents the mountain lion and the bobcat. A children’s favorite is to “ride” the mountain lion!

While the sculptures are designed to be accessible and user-friendly, there was an obvious concern regarding safety and security. The smaller and more delicate sculptures—the Harris’s Hawk nest and bird, Texas tortoise, and Buff-bellied Hummingbird—required some installation planning to prevent theft and ensure stability when touched. Parks and recreation welders designed and constructed stable stands and platforms, in concrete when necessary, to provide a safe attraction.

With the sculptures designed to be touched, the visually impaired and others were invited to appreciate their beauty. Children typically pet and hug the animal sculptures. There was a special moment when a school group of visually impaired children was touching the

Photo Courtesy of Quinta Mazatlan

Photo Courtesy of Quinta Mazatlan

Chachalaca sculpture. The sculpture features a mother, father, and two baby birds, and the students were discussing the size differentiation. Quinta Mazatlan happens to specialize in this species—and a family of birds flew in and landed on a nearby branch, calling in chorus for the children, “cha-cha-la-ca, cha-cha-la-ca.” It was a magical experience.

There is one creature, however, that does not get hugged, and that is the Texas indigo snake. The stone inscription states, “This native is large, black, and non-venomous, so harmless. Snakes that eat venomous snakes, like rattle snakes, are ’friends of humanity.’ They den in burrows left by other animals. Like many snakes, it will often shake its tail as a warning–even though it does not possess a rattle. Respect this threatened valuable snake.”

Appreciating The Animals

Quinta Mazatlan offers weekly nature tours with a naturalist sharing information about the wildlife and their need for habitat in order to survive. The guaranteed animal sightings along the sculpture trail allow the guide to follow a script that creates a “wow” experience, regardless of nature’s cooperation that day. Self-guided walks are easy for families and school groups because of the engraved information on the stones and the trail booklets at the front desk.

Although I have been out of Africa for a long time, the magic of the Serengeti will always stay with me. The experience of the heart, made up of what I saw, heard, smelled, and touched, has stayed with me. While a small city wildlife park can’t offer the full experience, we hope the Forest Sculpture Trail does allow a better understanding and appreciation of our ThornForest. We hope it will encourage families and friends to want to explore more, read more, plant more, and support conservation—to take the magic with them.

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