Published in Dallas Morning News Nov., 2016
The City of Dallas is about to become known as one of America's greenest cities, with America's Largest Urban Nature Park, and almost no one knows about this. To cause this to happen a number of nature-oriented projects have to all be completed and then the pieces of the puzzle will fit together. This is happening without public awareness because the projects are being conducted independently, managed by different parts of the government whose communications with each other are usually sparse.
The location where all of this is happening is in the area the City calls The Trinity River Corridor. The important piece of this vast watershed extends from where the main stem of Trinity River starts, just upstream from the Mockingbird-Westmoreland bridge, and goes all the way down to where the river crosses I-20 at Dallas's southern City Limit, approximately 20 river-miles away.
Three large, but disconnected projects are happening at different parts of this river corridor. When they are completed, and that should be soon, Dallas is likely to join Portland, Austin and other nature-oriented City's as The-Place-to-Live-if-You-Like-Nature. Here is a sneak preview of this Nature District:
- Birds/Horses/Golf – In a 1,000-acre section of the Great Trinity Forest, accessed by I-45 and Loop 12, only a 10-minute drive from downtown Dallas, three significant projects have been completed in the last eight years. The Trinity River Audubon Center opened in 2008 as a nature center for the forest and an education center that teaches environmental science to 25,000 kids a year. In 2015, the Texas Horse Park opened, with a rodeo arena as big as Mesquite's, and plans to host national equestrian events. Then, just this fall the Trinity Forest Golf Club opened, and will be the new home of the AT&T Byron Nelson tournament beginning in May, 2018.
- Lakes - Over ten years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began a project to help the floodwaters of the Trinity River move more efficiently downstream from the downtown Dallas area. They did this by clearing some clusters of trees in that area and installing a series of seven or eight lakes, that they like to call “wetlands”. This Trinity Lakes area is approximately the size of White Rock Lake and with a shoreline that rivals that huge lake. The Corps is currently building a Katy Trail-style bike path covering most of the distance from Downtown Dallas to the Horse Park/Golf Course/Audubon Center area about ten miles away. That trail is mostly complete and should be finished by next summer, at the current pace.
- Trinity Park – Because of the years of hard work by Trinity Trust and the generosity of the Harold Simmons family, Dallas' between-the-levees park, called Harold Simmons Park, is now funded with a $50 million commitment from the Simmons family and $30 million from an earlier bond program. Based on a media quote by the Mayor Mike Rawlings, construction of that park should be started next year. Among the many important aspects of that park is that it will serve as a launch-point to the Nature District that will start there and extend through the Corps' Trinity Lakes area and Horse Park/Golf Course/Audubon area all the way to the southern end of the Great Trinity Forest almost 20 river-miles away.
The extent of this Nature District is hard to comprehend. Counting the 1,000 acres of the existing developed areas, 2,000 between the levees and 7,000 acres of the Great Trinity Forest, the 10,000 acres is over ten times the size of New York's Central Park.
What is missing thus far is a recognition by the City of the connectedness of these projects, and a packaging of the nature park for what it will likely be – the Largest Urban Nature Park in America. In 2015, a group of conservation-minded business leaders formed a non-profit Trinity Recreation Conservancy to help the City with this task. We encourage the City to allow us to help.
Author: Stephen S. Smith,
Founder and CEO, Smith Group Asset Management and
Board Chair, Trinity Coalition