National Publics Lands Day Cleanup

25 Bags of trash picked up

A dozen volunteers from Longleaf Ridge Texas Master Naturalists scoured the steep, overgrown slopes below Sam Rayburn Reservoir on Saturday morning, September 14, to celebrate National Public Lands Day by picking up trash. Lori Horne coordinated the event with Abigail Bobette, the Corps on Engineers Park Ranger, who was absolutely thrilled with the resulting 25 bags of garbage in their dumpster instead of on the banks of our beautiful lake at this popular fishing site.

Don Fralick picking up trash

Don Fralick

“It’s a shame when you can sit down and pick up trash,” remarked volunteer Don Fralick as he perched on a guard rail working on a pile. “Oh, I’ve already broken my picker-upper!” lamented Joanie Kochanek, as she was trying to retrieve a glass beer bottle half buried in the sand. All of the volunteers had fun making this public area more presentable, but there was of course, the underlying wish that that everyone who visits would pack out their own trash, making this work unnecessary.

This event was part of our Trashoff Challenge! It began July 26 and will end November 5, 2019. Pick up anywhere in Jasper or Newton Counties. Take before and after pictures, and be sure to get a picture of your participants and how many trash bags you picked up. The goal is to see who or which team picks up the most trash!

Trashoff Challenge!

Trash picked up at Hidden Shores

On Saturday, July 27, 2019, the litter on Hidden Beaches bathed in morning sunlight for the last time. Six Master Naturalists trundled toward a halfway point on the road connecting Ebenezer and Letney Parks, where they were equipped with gloves, grabbers and trash bags. Some of them didn’t fully know it yet, but that was the day they would bring an unsightly pile of trash to its doom. At the meeting point, a trail from the road leads through the Angelina National Forest to the Sam Rayburn shoreline – a popular secluded spot for equestrian trail riders, beach seekers, and rogue campers. Unmanaged apart from occasional monitoring by law enforcement, the Hidden Beach’s popularity has adversely affected its beauty. Trash has littered its shoreline for months or longer, crowned by an enormous pile of cans and bottles stacked on top of an old burned log. Trash on Hidden ShoresThis particular pile had evoked much shaking of heads and even some angry Facebook posts. Danielle Horton, Marissa Hudgins (with her children Lucas and Laree) and Jackie Kopycinski had first cleaned up the parking “area” (not much more than a clearing by the road) in late June. A month later all three returned, joined by Joanie Kochanek, Richard Peters, and Nick Coco with his daughters Adaiah and Ella. Since it was the last refreshing morning of a mid-summer cool front, barely any bug spray was needed. Hibiscus moscheutos (swamp rose mallow) bloomed along the trail. The month’s worth of trash in the parking area was dispatched into bags within minutes. The team began working quickly down the lakeside trail that sloped toward the beach. Halfway three white ringed longleaf pines appeared to be in-habited by RCW’s despite all the foot traffic in the area. The trail ended at a cliffside and split into sever-al paths to the beach, and soon the group de-scended upon the legendary pile of trash. The gasps and groans of initial shock were replaced by strategy talk as the team worked to eliminate the pile and surrounding litter. The sun began to climb and with less shade on the beach, the air began to feel oppressively like July again. With full bags accumulating, the team began to wonder how they were going to get the heavy load of bags back uphill to the parking area. They hauled the bags up to a level area and counted sixteen 39-gallon bags and one styrofoam ice chest. Richard Peters expertly maneuvered his van down the sandy trail and back to retrieve the bags, and the walking group followed him back to the parking area. They only heard him bottom out a couple of times, and they agreed that anyone else would have gotten stuck in sand for the rest of the day. 

Cleaning Trash Hidden ShoresAs the team dispersed, Danielle grabbed the last two bags so she, Richard and Jackie could drop them off in the Ebenezer Park dumpster. Their work made a big step in restoring Hidden Beach from a shameful eyesore to a sparkling, secluded haven. 

Photos and article submitted by Danielle “Doc” Horton

They have set a high bar! Are you up to the challenge????

Congratulations Class of 2019!

We are so proud of our eighteen new volunteers in the Longleaf Ridge Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists! It was a fun class, and we have gained a great deal of talent.

2019 Class Boykin

Exploring Catahoula formations at Boykin Springs

2019 Class Fish Hatchery

Visiting the Fish Hatchery

2019Class Trail Between Lakes


Enjoying Potluck Meals


Learning about Invasives!

Boykin Red-cockaded Woodpecker Nesting Site

Looking for Red Cockaded Woodpeckers

Exploring the Old Sawmill


Siecke State Forest Field Trip

Siecke Field Trip

We had eleven hikers for the field trip to the historical E. O. Siecke State Forest on May 25th. Originally called State Forest #1, the original 1,722 acres were acquired in 1924 and much of the property was cut over and severely burned. Reforestation began immediately. An additional adjacent 100-acre plot was purchased in 1946 for tree improvement and silviculture (the growing and cultivation of trees) research. 

In 1926, the first fire lookout tower in Texas was constructed by TFS personnel; the first pine seedling nursery in the state was established; the agency began a silvicultural research program; and the first operational planting of slash pine was also conducted. The tower and remnants of the first slash pine plantation exist today. 

We walked the trail that Forester Ben Plunkett has designated to be a future nature trail for public use. We have been asked to scout the area and design informational trail signs to educate visitors about the sights that they are encountering along the trail. A convergence of ecosystems, the trail, rich in flora and fauna, incorporates hard-wood bottomland, piney wood savannahs, and sundew bogs. 

It will be an awesome location for family outings. It’s an honor to be a part of this plan and to become a segment in the impressive history of E. O. Siecke State Forest. 

Five Mile Prairie in the Rain

Hike to Five Mile Prairie

A group of our hardcore students and veterans braved the weather forecast this morning and ventured out to Five Mile Prairie for the second field trip of the 2019 Class. As the caravan arrived, the weather was gloomy but the raindrops had not began to fall yet.

Longbract Wild Indigo

Longbract Wild Indigo

As we headed out, the ground was wet and boggy in places from rainfall the previous two days, but the tiny Arkansas Leastdaisy, Chaetopappa asteroides,  still smiled, covering patches all along the way.  Moving further in, the purple blooms of Englemann’s Milkvetch, Astragalus distortus var. engelmannii,  provided a contrasting ground cover with the daisies, and light rain began to fall. We saw stunted Blackjack Oak, Quercus mirlandica,  and Post Oak, Quercus stellata, that are characteristic of shallow soil overlaying the Catahoula formation in this area. We spotted several blooming Longbract Wild Indigos, Baptisia bracteata, along the way.

Schoenolirion wrightii

Schoenolirion wrightii

Finally we arrived at the treasure we were looking for. A healthy population, perhaps hundreds, of Schoenolirion wrightii greeted us.  This flower is only found in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. Its habitat is disappearing, and it is listed as globally vulernable. Louisiana lists it as Critically Imperiled and Arkansas as Threatened. The common names for this species of concern are Texas Sunnybells or Wright’s Lily, named after botanist and naturalist, Charles Wright, who discovered the plant during his surveys of present Jasper, Angelina, Tyler and Newton counties while he lived on the Neches River and taught school in Zavalla, Texas between 1837 and 1840. Afterwards he moved to Town Bluff and stayed several years before heading further west on botanizing ventures.

The rain began to set in then, and we slowly circled our way back until thunder began to rip the clouds directly above us. No one complained, but the pace quickened a little, and none protested when we reached the road and decided against venturing to our second planned site, Black Branch Barrens. We will reschedule a trip there, perhaps in the fall when the spectacular Nuttall’s Rayless Goldenrod, Bigelowia nuttallii, covers the barrens.

The brave but soaking souls who get kudos for weathering today’s field trip were Fred and Elke Lyons and their dog, Julia McCormick, Cathy and Lonny Carrell, Jacki Kopycinski, Roger Goldsberry, Heather Goodman, Jerry Clark, Janette Johnson, and Georgia Purdy led by Keith Stephens and Laura Clark.

Boykin Springs Fun & Learning

Boykin Hike Bridge

The first field trip for the Class of 2019 was a fun adventure and provided many learning opportunities. Arriving at the site, everyone immediately noticed that the entire area had been subjected to a control burn just days earlier, and was still smoldering in some places. Students saw first hand how the burns help eliminate the underbrush that can grow into a thicket, but do no harm to the Longleaf Pines, Pinus palustris, and their seedlings. It also did not affect the blooms of the local Wild Azalea, Rhododendron canescens, and the black ground provided a dramatic backdrop for the many Flowering Dogwoods, Cornus floridana.  (more…)

Carnivorous Plants Hike

Boykin Red-cockaded Woodpecker Nesting Site

On March 23, 2019 we visited a hillside seepage bog at Boykin Springs where all four species of carnivorous plants in the Longleaf Ridge Master Naturalist area are known to grow.


Sandy Creek Park Project

A plan to develop Jasper’s Sandy Creek Park submitted by the local Master Gardeners has won approval for technical assistance from the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program. City representatives and NPS began meeting last November to work on plans. Members of the Longleaf Ridge chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists were invited and have been participating in the project.


Paddling to Nesting Eagles

Eighteen canoers, including two children, and two volunteer guides braved temperatures in the 30s and 40s on two Saturdays this February to enjoy a special treat. I assisted Gerald Langham, Sabine-Neches Texas Master Naturalist volunteer, who lead us out through the chilly waters of Steinhagen Lake on a Martin Dies, Jr. State Park paddling trip to view nesting eagles. Longleaf Ridge Master Naturalists Keith Stephens and Lori Horne, as well as Ben King, a student enrolled in our class starting March 19, accompanied us the first Saturday.  (more…)

Longleaf Ridge Master Naturalist Training Class

We will be starting a new class for Master Naturalists on March 19th, 2019. The classes will be held on Tuesday nights from 6-9 at the dining hall at Martin Dies Jr. State Park for approximately 16 weeks. The cost of the class is $140 per person (the price for couples is discounted some). The course will cover introductory classes on subjects like geology, mammals, birds, insects, fish, reptiles, grasses, flowers, trees, geographic ecosystems, etc. The cost of the class includes a large study book.

The class size is limited, so please email us ASAP at if you have any questions or if you want to be added to the class roll.

Counting Eagles at Toledo Bend

Counting Eagles at Toledo Bend

Join the fun!

Teaching children to use a spotting scope to find an eagle nest on a guided hike at Martin Dies, Jr. State Park

Teaching children to use a spotting scope to find an eagle nest on a guided hike at Martin Dies, Jr. State Park