Alexander Willis

Public Affairs

Mark Donald

Third Place Profile

A Breath of Fresh Air

Plano, a sprawling city filled with suburbs and businesses, might be the last place one would expect to find a vast network of wilderness trails that encompass hundreds of acres. Yet on the West side of Plano, right off of Park Road, you’ll find exactly that - the Nature Preserve of Arbor Hills.

Screenshot 2017-04-18 16.31.40.png

Located directly adjacent to the Plano Fire Department, the nature preserve’s entrance is located on the other side of an enormous grass field. Families and couple are often seen lying on a blanket, eating, chatting, or catching some shut eye.

“I think this is pretty much my favorite place in Plano,” says Krisha Modi, a Plano resident for 9 months. “It’s greener than any other park I’ve been too.”

Screenshot 2017-04-18 16.31.55.png

Making your way past the vast expanse of the grassy field you’ll find yourself at the entrance of the nature preserve. Countless picnic tables are lined up underneath a beautiful stone structure, with often many families sharing a meal and using the park’s free Wi-fi. A stone tower lies at the edge of the entrance, separating the rest area from the huge expanse of the nature preserve.

Hundreds of trees dot the horizon, and countless hiking and bike trails can be seen winding through the shrubbery. Warning signs can be seen by the entrance warning of local wildlife. Rabbits, turtles, snakes, coyotes, and even bobcats are often seen moving through the trees.

The trails themselves are almost always full of people during daylight hours. One such man, Thomas Schandler, known as ‘The Negotiator’ to friends and family, has been visiting the park every Sunday for 4 months straight.

Screenshot 2017-04-18 16.32.03.png

“I come here to walk and talk. It’s clean, good for you, and let’s you work out all of life’s little problems,” Schandler said. “You put a rusty piece of metal on top of a clean piece of stainless steel, the rust is gonna spread. And in the same vein, you need to not surround yourselves with negative people. If you’re angry at someone, I say you need to look inside yourself, look in the mirror. Don’t blame someone else, but instead look at what anger you yourself are hanging onto.”

Schandler usually walks upwards of 4 miles every time he visits the park, and says the long walks are leagues above a life filled with drugs and alcohol.

Some visit the nature reserve to experience it’s long bike trails; some come to share a meal with friends and family; and still some come to take an introspective look at themselves. And in a city as condensed and urbanized in Plano, such a place is sure to help many.