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The Crape Myrtle Trails
of McKinney

Article and photos by Janet Gregg
Courtesy of Texas Cooperative Extension

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Crape Myrtle Trail of McKinney sign
When you drive through McKinney, you can’t help but notice the natural beauty that is a part of the city. It seems so harmonious, it takes a few minutes to realize that a large part of what makes the drive so aesthetically pleasing is a relative newcomer to the scene.

But on closer look, visitors realize they’re seeing crape myrtles everywhere. And at this time of year, they’re just now popping out into full bloom. From peaceful whites to romantic lavenders to bold pinks and reds, these Lagerstroemia offer something for everyone. They range in height from dwarf shrubs, with a height of three feet or less, to medium sized trees with heights up to 30 feet. They have the traditional multi-stem trunks and the less common single stem trunks. They are planted alone, in groups and with other plants that only serve to enhance their appeal.
Single stem crape myrtles, Stonebridge Ranch Subdivision, McKinney
Single stem Crape Myrtles planted along the medians in Stonebridge Ranch Subdivision in McKinney
hot pink crepe myrtle bloom
Hot pink Crape Myrtle bloom.
Steve Brainerd, McKinney Parks Development Superintendent, oversees the city’s plantings. “I think the crape myrtle concept has found favor and we’re going to go forward with this. But I don’t know how long it will take to complete the trails. I think it’s been very well received and the plant material is excellent for what we’re asking it to do. They like hot weather and you can take away the water supply for this plant and it will survive, if you have water rationing, for example. I totally am in support of the concept here and I think the council is as well.”

City leaders aren’t alone. “The community loves this project. They want to get more involved and they want to know how to get more involved,” says Susan Owens, Executive Director of the Crape Myrtle Trails of McKinney Foundation.

The foundation was formed in 1998. The driving force behind the ongoing beautification effort is Neil Sperry, former Dallas County Agriculture Extension Agent best known today for dispensing horticulture advice through his radio show, broadcast on KRLD and the more than 60 radio stations that are part of the Texas State Network.

Sperry describes the foundation’s goal, “We are establishing ‘The World Collection’ of Crape Myrtles in the public areas of the city of McKinney. This collection does not exist anywhere else in the world.”
white crepe myrtle bloom
White Crape Myrtle bloom.
Over the last four years the city has planted more than 2,000 crape myrtles along more than 10 miles of public roadways, primarily on El Dorado Parkway, Virginia Parkway, Highway 380 and all the way through the Stonebridge Ranch Subdivision.
Crepe myrtle trail, El Dorado Parkway
Crape Myrtle Trail continues through El Dorado Parkway, marked by signs
Owens says the next phase of planting will run from Highway 75 west on Virginia Parkway to the beginning of Stonebridge Ranch. She adds that the plantings in the Stonebridge Ranch subdivision are particularly beautiful, because the developers immediately embraced the vision of a citywide crape myrtle trail.

“The city of McKinney Parks Department got a grant from the Texas Department of Transportation”, Owens said. “Then they got a city ordinance that each development that comes in has to set aside $17.00 for each linear foot of development for media plantings. Stonebridge Ranch came in and said, ‘We’re going to match that.’, and they put in $35.00 per linear foot.”

The result is an impressive display of seasonal color. Owens says it’s only the beginning. “Our vision for the Crape Myrtle Trail is to park on the west side, get on a bus, drive the trail one way, stop and shop and have lunch, get back on the bus and drive back a different route.”
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