For more than a decade, Dallas residents have been waiting for a park along the Trinity River. The nonprofit Trinity Trust is doling $1 million of private money to plan it. But not everybody’s happy about that.
Once it’s built -- construction could start in 2018 -- it’ll stretch along the Trinity River corridor, between the two Margaret bridges. It’ll have trails, playgrounds, lakes and a toll road winding through it.
At a meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, Dallas assistant city manager Mark McDaniel briefed the Trinity River Project Committee about the progress the city’s made with the park plan.
“The idea here is that the park is the client and that’s really kind of the focus of the effort, as opposed to the park being subservient to the park way,” he said.
Translation: City officials say they’ll put more emphasis on the park and less on the toll road, which has been a lightning rod for critics for decades.
”Everything isn’t about the road anymore, and I think that’s actually heading us in the right direction -- finally. It’s only taken us about 20 years,” said Sandy Greyson, a City Council member.
Last month, the City Council endorsed a “winding” parkway -- the product of Mayor Mike Rawlings' so-called “dream team” of urban designers. One of the people pushing that idea is Gail Thomas, president of Trinity Trust, a nonprofit that raises private funds for the city’s Trinity River projects.
“After our big flood in the last several months, we know that good planning is necessary. We have to know what will last, what will stay,” Thomas said when explaining why she’s glad the city’s working hard on a leak-proof design. She also added that though her group is financing the plan, it’s not choosing the consultants.
“We are most grateful that this fund is available to be used by the city to choose whomever the city chooses as consultant to design the best park we can have,” Thomas said.
Angela Hunt, a long-time toll road opponent from her time on the City Council and ever since, is a big fan of the park idea. But she still has mixed feelings.
“We’ve had over 15 years of planning on this park, and I think folks are really looking forward to seeing a park constructed there and less excited about planning yet again to plan some more,”
Hunt says, instead of spending funds on consultants, the city should be putting money into the parks directly.
“Asking or parks department, for example, to very rapidly figure out… how could they use two million dollars to fund real amenities in park and get them put in, get them put in in the next six months, that’s what I’d love to see,” Hunt said.
Paul Sims, Hunt’s husband, is on the Park and Recreation board. He’s been pretty outspoken about the city’s decision to use private funding.
“What we’ve seen is a lot of consultants, a lot of foundations and a lot of wealthy donors. What we haven’t seen much of is people represented,” Sims said.
Next up, city officials say, a round of public discussions this fall.