The Birth of the Crape Myrtle Trails World Collection Park. As narrated by our Founder Neil Sperry
The idea behind The Crape Myrtle Trails of McKinney
I’ll take you back to 1991. We’d been here 14 years. Lynn already had 8 years on MISD Board. We’d just moved our office to near downtown McKinney.
Scores of miles of divided streets and roadways were coming to McKinney. Lake Forest Drive north of Eldorado Parkway was beautiful. Stonebridge had crape myrtles, but they didn’t have them cataloged and recorded.
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My hope was that our city could feature all of the known varieties, and have them labeled in a way that the public could compare them side-by-side.
Nowhere was there a complete collection of all the known varieties anywhere in the world.
The medians seemed like the perfect place to showcase crape myrtles.
I stood at the southwest corner of the intersection of Louisiana and Kentucky Streets one warm day that August 1991 talking to the city manager about the idea.
I had forgotten it, but the idea even made it into the Sherman Democrat. But the idea died somewhere on the way back from Sherman.
The basic idea was to plant all the public areas: medians, rights-of-way, parks, school grounds, cemeteries – all the public areas with crape myrtles.
All the known varieties of crape myrtles. Historic ones in the older neighborhoods. Newer ones to the west.
Dream was to see people waiting in line to take hot-air balloon rides over the city to see the crape myrtles.
I had worked alongside Dr. Don Egoff from the US National Arboretum as he trialed new plants at A&M Center in mid-70s.
I knew this could be a travel and tourism project, and it certainly would be a civic beautification project. My main interest was, and still is, the serious botanic nature of it.
However, ideas are cheap. It’s follow-through that is much more difficult, and my follow-through fell to the ground in front of that city manager. He just didn’t seem interested, so I dropped the whole idea for six years.
May 15, 1997, was one of the biggest days of my life. I got to visit a special recovery high school called Sobriety High in Edina, Minnesota. My wife and counselors from McKinney ISD had been to Sobriety six months earlier. That school and those visits were the headwaters of Serenity High in McKinney.
I was exhausted emotionally when I returned that night. I was scheduled to put on a landscape design school at Dowell Middle School in McKinney. As my co-worker Dr. Steve George of Texas A&M spoke during the first portion of the program, I stood visiting with a man I didn’t know, telling him about my trip to Minnesota and how excited I was.
Continuing the talk, I mentioned to him the dream I’d had six years earlier about a Crape Myrtle Trails of McKinney and what it could mean for our city. The next day, the phone rang, and it was “that man.” Rick Traylor told me he had enjoyed the visit, and that he was chair of the McKinney Quality of Life Committee, and that they would like to consider funding the initial part of our work in developing the Trails.
Rick scheduled a planning retreat with Randy Williams of the McKinney Chamber and several other community leaders. We actually met in the same building now housing the McKinney Park Department – off Stonebridge Drive, just south of US 380.
Quality of Life grant funded a master plan for our project. We hired renowned landscape architect Naud Burnett of Dallas to develop the plan. Mr. Burnett had done many similar jobs over his career, notably several for the Dallas Arboretum.
The first official plantings were made at McKinney High School in honor of Valedictorian Danny Lowe in September 1998.
The landscape firm Newman, Jackson, Bieberstein was retained to develop planting plans for Eldorado Parkway from Highway 5 McDonald Street west to Hardin. We held a public meeting to show our plans to McKinney in August, 1999
The first median plantings of the variety Tuscarora were made in September, 1999, on the east side of Eldorado at Hardin.
To be completed…. Subsequent plantings continued west on Eldorado to Orchid and eventually to Ridge. Those were followed in ensuing years by plantings on Ridge, Hardin and McKinney Ranch Road. Recalling the events by Neil Sperry -Founder
The not-for-profit Crape Myrtle Trails of McKinney Foundation formed in 1998.
The first major plantings of crape myrtles were made in September 2000 and April 2001 along Eldorado Parkway from Highway 5 (McDonald Street) west to Hardin Boulevard, also along U.S. 380 just west of U.S. 75.Plans Click to download a list of locations and varieties.
Subsequent plantings were made from Hardin Road to Stonebridge Drive, also along Virginia Parkway.
In 2007 plantings were made on Hardin Drive between Eldorado Parkway and Virginia Parkway, also on McKinney Ranch Road and on Ridge Road between Eldorado Parkway and McKinney Ranch Road.
To-date, some 15 miles of medians have been planted with more than 4,000 crape myrtles.
Each year at our Founders’ Club Gala we introduce the following year’s Super Sponsors. Each of these individuals and companies agrees to plant 200 crape myrtles in a publicly visible area of McKinney within the following calendar year. We are indebted to the support of these community-spirited leaders.