Local dignitaries, elected officials, donors, board members, Gregg County road and bridge crews, representatives from MHS Designs, and fans of the Longview Arboretum and Nature Center will gather Thursday at 1:30pm to watch the gold shovels dig into that red clay dirt that, over the next 12 months, will be transformed into the first phase of master-planned designs of the Longview Arboretum and Nature Center—a collective park honoring the indigenous plants and trees of East Texas. This arboretum project is the culmination of dream begun 15 years ago in the halls of the Gregg County Master Gardener’s and has received its momentum from a volunteer board of directors working hand in glove with the City of Longview’s parks and recreation department. This public/private partnership has crossed the necessary hurdles to get the time where clearing, cultivation and planting can begin to not only honor the $1.5 million dollar in donations already given to this $5 million-dollar park, but to catch the right seasons with Mother Nature.

Thanks to the generous contribution of manpower from the Gregg County Commissioner’s road and bridge crews from precincts 1,3, and 4, and some trustees, massive amounts of trees, scrub brush, and dirt have been moved to create the sweeping meadows, lawns, and lake that will become distinctions within the arboretum that will also feature a formal garden and gazebo. This first phase of construction also includes a $250,000 grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation for the first sweep of trails that will be built into the park to accommodate those that want to amble through nature, while in the very heart of Longview. And a gift from the Hugman family for a performance pavilion at the lake’s edge. Bridges, benches, and flower beds will accent this park.

Future plans include extending the trails, developing the administration and events building on Cotton Street, and creating curriculum and activities for children of all ages to be reminded that the best of a human being is found in the best of nature.