AUSTIN, Texas  – As people continue to move to Texas, and cities like Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas face rapid growth and development, maintaining green spaces in these urban areas is becoming more important than ever. 

What You Need To Know

  • Eric Paulus maintains Circle Acres Nature Preserve in East Austin

  • Preserve is 10 acres and home to 1,300 animal species

  • Area was a trash dump prior to the involvement of nonprofit Ecology Action of Texas

  • Plans include on-site classroom for environmental education 

In the heart of East Austin, the Circle Acres Nature Preserve supplies the community with nearly 10 acres of native forest and trails that provide a reprieve from the bustle of the city, and thanks to the work of the nonprofit Ecology Action of Texas, it's become one of the most biodiverse areas in all of Austin. 

But maintaining the 10-acre natural habitat is no small feat, and one man is determined to preserve it for generations to come. 

“We’ve documented over 1,800 species in the park and over 1,300 in circle acres alone," said Eric Paulus, director of Ecology Action of Texas. 

But Circle Acres Nature Preserve wasn’t always the thriving wildlife sanctuary it is today. 

“Back in the '60s, the city was bringing their municipal waste to Circle Acres and burning it in this field and on top of this," said Paulus. 

The land spent decades as a brownfield, landfill, and trash dump, before the nonprofit Ecology Action of Texas got involved, and the cleanup and environmental restoration work began. 

“We took like, what was the most polluted property in this area and converted it over 15 years and thousands of volunteers’ effort into something really meaningful for the people who live around here but also the wildlife that live around here," said Paulus. "It's actually one of the most biodiverse 10 acres in all of Austin, at this point.”

Today, as the director and sole employee of the nonprofit, Paulus is responsible for maintaining the entire preserve. 

“I’ve always been a plant person. So being able to tend to to nature and work on growing, growing a forest is actually a pretty big privilege," said Paulus. 

But it’s a huge responsibility. 

He singlehandedly runs projects like restoring native plants to the park.  

“This here is a cottonwood tree. And we have a cage pretty heavy duty cage and irrigation bag. So the cage will keep the deer and the feral hogs from devouring the tree, until it gets established," said Paulus. 

He also maintains all the trails, and continuously applies for grants to keep the nonprofit and preserve funded. 

“Some big, long-term plans that are hopefully starting to come into fruition [include] building an environmental education classroom on the site and getting some solar panels so we can actually have some power for a few things on the site," said Paulus. 

But perhaps his biggest passion project is outreach and education. 

“The idea is to help teach environmental stewardship to a new generation and give them hands-on opportunities to learn and participate in that process. We're in the middle of just the beginning of a major climate crisis that's gonna, you know, encompass our entire lifespans, and we have the responsibility to put things right, and to, to make the efforts to fix things," said Paulus.

An effort we can all participate in. ​