Imagine traveling back in time thousands of years before the first settlers arrived in Harris County. In Deer Park, instead of highways, refineries and houses, you would see coastal prairie – “a sea of grass” as tall as people, full of wildflowers, grassland birds and wildlife from the bison to the horned lizard. The coastal prairie stretched over 9 million acres from south Texas to Louisiana. Today, this type of prairie is considered “the rarest of the rare” – with less than 1% remaining. Even more special, 50 acres of it exists in the heart of Deer Park, Texas. Considered a “platinum prairie” the Lawther – Deer Park Prairie is home to more than 350 plants that include rare findings like the snowy orchid and the purple pleat. The land also houses many coastal bird breeds such as the White-tailed Kites, Snipe, Ibis, Eagle, Osprey among others.
“This particular site is a very rare gem, when you consider that this area is highly industrialized and we happened to find a 50-acre prairie that has never been plowed and it has all the original plants,” explains Pat Merkord, Native Prairies Association of Texas Executive Director.
In 2013, the Deer Park Prairie was saved from development as a result of a massive fundraising drive, that Shell and many of the employees at Shell Deer Park individually contributed to. Since that time, Shell Deer Park has supported the Deer Park Prairie bringing subject matter experts out to site to share the prairie’s story with our employees, introducing them to native grass gardens and helping the experts at the Deer Park Prairie to connect with stakeholders in the community.
In 2017, Shell Deer Park had another opportunity to support the prairie and did so through a grant to the Native Prairies Association of Texas, funding the inaugural Outdoor Education Program, including hiring of a Prairie Educator at the Lawther – Deer Park Prairie.
“At Shell Deer Park, we seek opportunities to invest in our community in a sustainable way with the biggest possible impact for many in our community,” said Amanda Accardo, External Relations Manager at Shell Deer Park. “The Deer Park Prairie’s Outdoor Education Program falls into two of the key areas we seek opportunities in – education and environment – and seeks to both bring the Prairie to the classroom and students and other community members out to the Prairie. From the beginning, we knew it was something we wanted to be part of.”