Environmental activist Don Young has hung around Fort Worth’s Tandy Hills Natural Area since he was a kid in the 1960s. Who can blame him? The 160-acre prairie just east of downtown is one of the city’s coolest features. If you’ve ever headed toward Arlington on I-30 from Fort Worth, you’ve probably noticed all that open, rolling, hilly property just south of the highway and maybe wondered why it’s never been developed. It’s a protected natural area, but even protected places fall to developers if the citizenry doesn’t keep tabs on what’s happening at City Hall. About 15 years ago, urban gas drillers and frackers were proposing to drill adjacent to and underneath the nature area. Young and wife Debora and other residents fought back, protesting at public hearings and complaining loudly to city leaders. They managed to hold off the drillers, and since then Young and his troops have hosted music festivals and events to raise money to clean up the park, removed invasive species, and done the occasional city-supervised burns. Young and cohorts also guide school kids on tours to study the different types of foliage. In the early 2000s, I was the first reporter I know of to write about the massive water usage and environmental issues associated with fracking, and this brought me into frequent contact with the Youngs and put me at odds with various energy company officials and their attorneys. It was an exciting, raucous time in the city’s history as former Mayor Mike Moncrief used his considerable power and political heft to clear the way for drillers despite a growing backlash from residents. Nobody fought against the drillers as hard as Young, a passionate guy devoted to his causes. Despite knowing him all these years, I didn’t know he played harmonica. You blew the heck out of that harp, Don! And what fun it was to play that great old Joni Mitchell tune about paving over paradise, a song from the 1960s that still rings true more than 50 years later. — Jeff Prince



  1. I visited Tandy Hills last Sunday and the wildflowers are still going strong. Tandy Hills was definitely worth the visit this spring and I can’t thank Don and Debora enough for all they have done to keep it going. Their thinking is in the forefront of what benefits a natural area can have for a city. And thankfully, the city is finally recognizing their work.