• Vegan race car driver to bring veg message to Earth Day Dallas • Fort Worth group aims to save 2,000-acre tall grass preserve
Earth Day Dallas has already garnered a reputation for being one of the world’s largest Earth Day celebrations. This year, the eco-friendly fest set for April 20-21 at Fair Park, is boosting its star power with an appearance by environmental activist and race car driver Leilani Münter.
Münter, a biology graduate who’s been racing cars since 2001, combines her need for speed with her passion for environmental issues. Last year, she drove her “Cove” themed car at the Daytona International Speedway to highlight the annual dolphin slaughter in Japan, exposed in the Academy-Award winning documentary The Cove.
This year, Münter has partnered with 1% for the Planet, VegNews Magazine and Wildlife Works to develop a "VegNation" race car to encourage race fans to put the brakes on their meat consumption.
“By adopting a more plant-based diet, we can each help curb climate change while also doing something good for our health, for animals and for our taste buds," said Münter.
The vegan athlete, whose brother-in-law is Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir, will speak Saturday in the early afternoon, followed by a meet and greet session.
“She’s putting a new face on eco-friendliness,” said Susan Brosin, director of Earth Day Dallas. “She, in her own words, is bringing environmentalism to mainstream America.”
Fort Worth is known as the place where the West begins. It’s also home to a unique ecosystem known as the Fort Worth Prairie, which once spanned 1.3 million acres. A local group is spearheading a campaign to save one of its last remaining remnants, rapidly being surrounded by development.
The 2,000-acre property, dubbed the Fort Worth Prairie Park, was discovered in 2006 by the Great Plains Restoration Council. The non-profit based in Fort Worth restores natural areas and connects at-risk young adults and children with nature.
Jarid Manos, founder of GPRC, immediately recognized the parcel as a special landscape. “It’s a safe place. I love the refuge it provides for people and animals.”
According to Manos, the property in southwest Tarrant County features 700 plant species and a variety of native wildlife, including deer, coyotes and crawdads. Some of its prized landmarks include a 300-year-old cedar elm, a lush creek and an Indian Marker tree. Its abundance of wildflowers serves as a way station for migrating monarch butterflies.
“It’s beautiful anytime of year, but the land explodes with color in the spring,” said Manos.
The area also has unique historical significance having served as a gathering place for local Indian tribes and Anglo settlers, as well as an escape route for African-American slaves.
The land is owned by the Texas General Land Office, which intended to sell it to developers with a price tag of $21 million. While development has been stalled thanks to efforts by supporters of the park, advocates are concerned that its proximity to the Chisholm Trail Parkway being built from Fort Worth to Cleburne could make it a hot commodity.
As a result, Jo Ann Collins, co-chair of the Friends of Fort Worth Prairie Park, said they are stepping up efforts to raise funds to purchase the property. To ramp up local support, this month, they began hosting public hikes the second Sunday of the month. Collins, a master naturalist, says educating the public about the prairie’s value is key to its preservation.
Grasslands are unsung heroes that provide wildlife habitat and play a significant role in water conservation and reducing the effects of climate change, she said.
“We always talk about saving the trees,” said Collins. “We never talk about saving the grasses.”