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Park in Top Form for Dogwood Trails

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Davey Dogwood Park Looking Spectacular Ahead of March Celebration

By Jason Jones

Messenger Reporter

PALESTINE – Davey Dogwood Park and the Dogwood Trails festivities are indelible features of the allure of Palestine and East Texas. The beauty and serenity of the park, coupled with the spectacular annual blooming of the namesake trees, makes for a must-see event for anyone within reach of the amazing destination.

While many are familiar with the park during the annual bloom and celebration, the park provides an amazing getaway any time of the year.

Anderson County Precinct 4 Commissioner, Joey Hill, and Precinct 4 Foreman, Victor Edge, recently talked about the importance of Davey Dogwood Park and the county’s efforts to keep it maintained as an irreplaceable piece of Palestine’s history and attraction.

“The park falls square in the middle of Precinct 4, and it is very much a priority for us,” said Hill. “Two members of our crew, Billy Miller and Billy Rogers, are permanently assigned to the park and caring for it is their primary focus.”

“They are on top of it out there,” added Edge. “They keep it perfectly mowed, trimmed and manicured. They take it very seriously.”

While it is uplifting and inspiring to see so much focus on the park, it was not always the case in years long past. The blacktop roads throughout the park, freshly topped and smooth, are vastly different from the 80s when navigating the park was not so friendly to anything other than a truck. And exiting the park from the picnic area required either an in-depth knowledge of the park or a lot of luck. Those who did not know to cross the small bridge and circle back to the left might be driving the trails for hours looking for the exit.

“Yeah, there was definitely a time when getting around out there was a challenge,” said Hill. “But it’s much better now, and new signage will be going up soon.”

The experience is definitely much improved in recent years. A drive through the park is an absolute serene pleasure.

“Last year we resurfaced 4.2 miles of the roads in the park,” said Edge. “We’re hoping to finish about 2 more before Dogwood Trails in March.” Along with the resurfacing, a new exit route has been added from the picnic area that will simplify the driving experience for the uninitiated.

Hill and Edge also spoke highly of their connection and cooperation with Texas Forest Service.

“Those guys are fantastic,” said Edge. “They are extremely helpful in supplying us with saplings and helping us with trimming and controlled burns. It makes a huge difference for the park.”

“We also close the park for them one week a year,” said Hill. “They use that time to bring kids out to the park for educational excursions to learn about forestry and nature in general. It’s a great program.”

The park was conceived in 1938 by two Palestine businessmen, Charles W. Wooldridge, power company manager, and Eugene Fish, bank president. Over a cup of coffee, the two discussed the unusual and unique beauty of the dogwood trees in the area. The two businessmen then agreed that Palestine should have a dogwood trail.

An exceptional plot of dogwood trees on hilly land just north of Palestine was discovered. Local landowners E.W. and H.R. Link gave the group access to the land so that proper trails could be built.

During World War II, although not in operation due to gasoline rationing and a federal plea against unnecessary travel, the trails permanency was assured thanks to local oil man, M.A. Davey. The nature-loving benefactor purchased the large central piece of land over which the trails were routed and gave it to Anderson County specifically for a public park.

The 254-acre park is open year-round and has five miles of hard surface roads, 8 miles of unincorporated hiking and biking trails and scenic views. The park is open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

“It seems like the park isn’t as well-used as it should be,” said Edge. “The Dogwood Trails celebration draws a big crowd to Palestine every year, but not that many go out to take a drive through the park. Traffic increases out there, as you would expect, but not as much as it should. Folks are really missing a wonderful experience.”

New restroom facilities recently joined the beautiful pavilion at the park. A joint effort by CARS of Palestine, Palestine Rotary Club and Anderson County resulted in a beautiful and welcome addition.

Davey Dogwood Park is located at 900 N. Link St. There are two entrances into the park, one off Link St. and the bus entrance on Queen St. off N. Loop 256. It is truly an experience not to be missed.

Jason Jones may be reached via email at jjones@messenger-news.com

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