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Harker Heights Evening Star
Harker Heights Evening Star

GO Heights explores plant life in Dana Peak Park

GO Heights explores plant life in Dana Peak Park

By Courtney Marco, Harker Heights Evening Star

There are hundreds of thousands of plant types all over the world. An estimate by the Botanic Gardens Conservation International states that there are around 400,000 known plant species, and that number is still growing. In Texas alone, the types of plants found vary widely from one region to the next. This is due to soil variation, rainfall amount and regularity, and the number of frost-free days. From the rich forests of East Texas to the dry wildernesses of West Texas, from the green grasslands of North Texas to the semi-arid brushlands of South Texas, plant species differ greatly.

Last Thursday, Harker Heights residents got the chance to identify many types of plants in Central Texas during their hike at Dana Peak Park. The hike was led by Sarah Mylcraine and instructed by Yvonne Eele.

“GO Heights came up with the idea of the hike,” Sarah Mylcraine, activities specialist, said, “The purpose was to go along with the mission of GO Heights, which is a new outdoor recreation program for individuals of all skill levels to find a new hobby, learn a new outdoors skill and enjoy nature. Outdoor lovers have a place to meet new outdoor enthusiasts, brush up on their hobbies, or learn a new hobby all while enjoying the great outdoor amenities that our area offers.”

The hike started at 6 p.m. with a brief talk from Eele on the different types of plants that hikers could expect to see on the trek. Before walking though, Eele and Mylcraine made sure everybody had water, as was suggested on the sign up site.

Eele is a Certified Central Texas Master Naturalist and an Operations Ranger at Mother Neff State Park. She studied botany and geology at Utah Valley State College and has lived in several places in the country.

All throughout the hike, Eele pointed out different types plants and took the group into small clearings to get them an up-close look to some of the plants. She also talked to participants in separate, smaller groups if they had a specific question. It was often one on one or in groups of three or two.

“I think she did great,” Mylcraine said. “Yvonne is a highly qualified individual to teach the class. She made the hike fun and was very knowledgeable and resourceful about the different plants.”

The hike, called Plant Identification, is one of GO Heights free adventures. Founded on Oct. 7, 2014, GO Heights stands for Get Outdoors Heights, and it’s Harker Heights new outdoor recreation program co-organized by Mylcraine and Harker Heights Parks and Recreation department.

“The idea was started with HHPRD staff because we have a lot of different opportunities for “adventures” here (lots of parks, surrounded by lakes, hiking trails, etc.) and at the time there was not a program to encompass these resources,” Mylcraine said. “So we figured since we had the resources, we should reach out to the community and we were right – there was an interest for this type of programming so we continued to build and develop the program.”

GO Heights offers a different activity on the second Thursday of every month. The times, location, and price change by adventure.
“It is off to a great start,” Mylcraine said, “The meetup group is up to 92 participants now, and each of our adventures has good attendance. Our campouts are also a big hit and generate a lot of interest for the GO Heights program.”

Besides hiking, GO Heights also provides events for camping, kayaking, outdoors, outdoor fitness, adventure, cycling, backpacking, and mountain biking. Their next adventure is Astronomy located at the Carl Levin Park Pavilion. To RSVP go to www.meetup.com/GO-Heights.
“We have Astronomy on Sept. 10, we will be at the Central Texas Master Naturalists program NatureFest on Oct. 10, and our Fall Family Campout is Nov. 7 – 8,” Mylcraine said.

For more information on GO Heights, visit www.meetup.com/GO-Heights/.

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