By Emily Maulding, Correspondent
Miller Springs Nature Center is a popular location for community events in the Belton and Temple area. The park has held numerous school field trips, birdwatching tours, parties, Eagle Scout projects, and naturalist expeditions studying geology and local biodiversity. The Nature Center has added several new bike paths in the southern area of the park.
Miller Springs Park is the adjacent 360-acre park, largely located on the south side of the Leon River. (http://www.millerspringsnaturecenter.org/) The entrance to Miller Springs Park, on Highway 439, is the best point for bikes to access the trails.
Keller Matthews is a board member of Miller Springs Alliance, the 501(C)3 charitable organization that was chartered in 1992 to promote conservation and management of the 260-acre Miller Springs Nature Center, located north of the Leon River near Belton Dam. Matthews says, “We host volunteer workdays to introduce people to the park, and to maintain the trails in the park. We also promote education about the natural resources of our area, through our website, arboretum, and occasional guided tours.”
The Miller Springs Alliance works to improve and maintain the trails and animal habitat in the Nature Center. This includes the grooming of trails, removal of fallen trees, removal of more than a thousand invasive trees and thousands of invasive plants in the past year alone. It also includes the construction of animal habitats. There are many opportunities to volunteer and donate to the park. Members of the community can sign up for “Friends of the Park News” on the Miller Springs Nature Center website to be notified of upcoming volunteer events.
Volunteers gather every second Thursday of the month at 8:30 a.m. to work on improving the park. Volunteers usually meet in the parking area at the north end of the Belton Dam. Everyone is invited, including children old enough to use a pair of clippers. The Nature Center recommends to bring water, work gloves, and to wear long sleeved shirts, long pants and closed toed shoes. Help take care of your community on the second Thursday of March.
Matthews says, “Miller Springs is a natural jewel; hundreds of species of wildflowers, birds, and wildlife are accessible, not far from the city centers of Temple and Belton. Park visitors can enjoy the solitude of nature walks and the cacophony of nature sounds, just minutes from home. Many fitness-oriented visitors enjoy the 11 miles of trails for walking, running, or biking.”
Maps of the park and its trails are located in the Nature Center parking lot, off Highway 2271 and at four marked locations within the park. The park map is also on the MSNC website and can be downloaded to smartphones as a .pdf file.
Matthews says, “The park is handicap accessible, and a large ramp south of the parking lot leads visitors across the spillway to one of the most spectacular overlooks in Central Texas. Beyond the overlook, trails lead downhill, so the path back to the parking lot can be strenuous.”
The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset. “Spring is the most happening time at the park. Wildflowers are blooming, migratory birds are returning, or passing through, and the springs are flowing briskly,” says Matthews.
For more information on events, volunteer opportunities, and trails, visit: www.millerspringsnaturecenter.org