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Environment & Nature

Southeast Dallas residents envision a park at former Shingle Mountain site

floral farms mariachi.jpeg
Shirley Che Studios
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Mariachi Mi Tierra performed before the architects with HKS Inc. presented renderings of new park design for the community of Floral Farms.

The new park would replace the vacant lot of about 4 acres, where the notorious Shingle Mountain once stood. Shingle Mountain was the 100,000-ton pile of hazardous waste that loomed over the community for three years. Residents said it “stood as a vivid reminder of their worth to the city.”

After three years of fighting for environmental justice in their community, Floral Farms residents are hopeful a new park will help them reclaim their neighborhood.

Last week, mariachi music echoed through the southeast Dallas neighborhood as residents waited for the unveiling of a park design developed by HKS Inc., a Dallas-based architectural firm.

Cecilia Del Toro Garcia
Keren Carrión
Cecilia Del Toro Garcia stands in her backyard, where Shingle Mountain is visible in the background. Her backyard, which was once a home for Garcia’s garden, is now barren due to the toxic waste dump.

¡Bien feliz! Mira la alegria de todos,” Very Happy! Look at the joy in everyone’s faces,” said resident Cecilia Del Toro Garcia of the crowd of 50 people who attended the celebratory event.

Garcia said she’s been waiting a long time for this day. Living next door to Shingle Mountain, she blames the black dust from the hazardous waste piles for her nose bleeds and lingering cough.

The city removed the mountain of debris and acquired a portion of the land after months of health complaints from nearby residents, environmental activists with Downwinders at Risk, and organizations including Neighbors United/Vecinos Unidos, Paul Quinn College’s Urban Research Initiative, and the Inclusive Communities Project.

Now, HKS designers say they're "righting this wrong for the city" and have created a rendering for a park that would include playgrounds, a community garden, soccer field, water splash area, skateboarding arena, and space for food trucks.

“It's very clear that they have a strong voice and strong need for healing,” said Erin Peavey, an architect and design researcher at HKS.

floral farms park presentation.jpeg
Shirley Che Studios
Architects with HKS Inc. gave a bilingual presentation to residents of the Floral Farms community. They said this new park design is the beginning of a new chapter for the neighborhood.

After the mariachi music and folkloric dancers, HKS architects presented the design to the community.

Peavey said it was essential that the designers heard from the residents throughout the park designing process. For months, the architecture group met regularly with residents and hosted meetings in English and Spanish both virtually and in person. Those meetings confirmed that the residents of Floral Farms needed “green space to relax and (to) interact with their neighbors.”

“A lot of communities get to have a say in what happens in their backyard. Why doesn’t Floral Farms get to have that?,” Peavey asked. “What are we saying with our policies about worth and about who gets to have a voice at the table?”

HKS plans to use the slogan “together we can move mountains,” which will greet park visitors at the entrance and along many trails throughout the park. The plans also call for a 14-foot-tall hill to serve as a reminder of Shingle Mountain.

floral farms park entrance.jpeg
HKS Inc.
HKS architects said it was essential to keep Floral Farms' identity when creating the park design. They want the community to feel at home.

Santander Bank presented a check for $100,000 for the park. Floral Farms and its partnering organizations are also fundraising and taking donations at dallasstars.com/parkforfloralfarms.

Organizers said the next step is for the city of Dallas to buy in to the idea. Council member Tennell Atkins, who represents the area, said he would look at the plans.

Until then, resident Cecilia Del Toro Garcia will look forward to going on daily walks and taking her three granddaughters roller skating in the park.

Las Granjas Florales fue una comunidad que supo luchar,” Garcia said. “Floral Farms is a community that knows how to fight.”

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.

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