A Day at Cross Pines Ranch in the Woods of East Texas (2)

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Ranch Architect, Steve Chambers, Visits Cross Pines Ranch Development

It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Henry David Thoreau, On Walden Pond.

The unobtrusive entry greets owners with a dense thicket of pines and hardwoods. The highway no longer visible, we are enveloped solely in the sounds of nature.

One of the many beautiful lakes within the pastoral Cross Pines setting The writer, transcendentalist, and philosopher Henry David Thoreau lived on the northern shore of Walden Pond for two years starting in the summer of 1845.His account of the experience of his “life in the woods” made the pond famous. By the end of the work, we recognize that the small body of water symbolizes everything Thoreau values. The water represents nature’s ability to restore vitality and tranquility to the human spirit. Thoreau concludes his chapter on “The Ponds” with the line, “Talk of heaven! ye disgrace earth.” He appears unwilling to subordinate earth to heaven, for it is in nature that Thoreau finds a heaven within himself. By accessing nature, Thoreau discovers that he can mine the depth of his heart and soul.

He goes to the woods to live in self-reliance and engage in the essentials of life, to find what it has to teach him and eliminate all that is unnecessary. He finds the trees and pastures and horizons provide more than enough nourishment for his imagination.

How can architects and developers shape environments “through which we look,” at nature and ourselves? It is without changing or removing the best natural teaching elements and sources of inspiration in a specific setting. It’s an increasingly rare thing to be able to find and create low impact, one-of-a-kind communities that celebrate the natural beauty and spirit of the region in which they are developed. And it’s even more difficult to unplug an entire family from a treadmill of routine and activity in order to form inspiring memories and create real riches to share and pass on to future generations.

One of the many vistas that owners at Cross Pines Ranch enjoy.

This week we found just such a place. Cross Pines is a quiet recreation-oriented community with conservation in its heart. Its 2100 acres where ranch homes may be constructed are owned by only forty families. It has the Walden experience of tall woods, pastures, and ponds. Situated in scenic East Texas, it is within a short driving distance from the Dallas area.

Cross Pines Ranch Club House, available for use by all of the property owners.

The Cross Pines Preserve is an area comprised of over 1,800 acres within the Ranch that is forever protected through a permanent Conservation Easement. The Conservation Easement preserves the natural integrity and beauty of the land as well as the native plants and wildlife by restricting further development. Through the Preserve, the natural environment of the Ranch and its ecologically important areas safeguard the Ranch’s indigenous plants and animals that have always had a home on this land.

A limited number of structures have been built for recreational purposes: an equestrian facility, piers on the lakes and a gun club. Additionally, limited cattle operations, hiking, horseback riding and certain other recreational uses are allowed under the Conservation Easement. The Cross Pines Preserve is available for use only by the owners and their families and guests, or guests of the Ranch’s owner association.

Bosque Canyon Ranch is another land preservation locale where Chambers Architects designed homes for clients. At the time, we were unaware that the same group who developed Cross Pines owns the Bosque County ranch. While quite different in terrain and eco-systems, both ranches demonstrate a similar sensitivity for the land and its resources and a passion for conservation.

An afternoon sufficed to lay out the land into orchard, wood-lot, and pasture, and to decide what fine oaks or pines should be left to stand before the door, and whence each…tree could be seen to the best advantage; and then I let it lie, fallow, perchance, for a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone. Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Steve Chambers, AIA, is an award-winning Dallas-based architect specializing in residential design, modern and traditional, and in historic preservation. Chambers Architects has designed many ranches, barn, and equestrian centers in Texas.

In the gallery, below, views within the ranch and from the club house. Nearby Mineola offers quaint shops and restaurants, a welcome change from big city living.

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