Dallas Quietly Made a Massive New Park Acquisition Yesterday

It’s understandable that the big parkland news that came out of yesterday’s Dallas City Council meeting was the acquisition of the site of the former Shingle Mountain. The 100,000-ton mound of toxic waste that once hovered over Marsha Jackson’s house in southern Dallas was an environmental calamity, a colossal injustice, and an embarrassment for the city. After far too long, the city finally took charge of the site and cleaned it up, and neighbors are now working with the architectural firm HKS to try to transform it into a park. (They will also need to do something about the neighboring plot of land, where Irving-based Almira Industrial and Trading Corporation cleaned up the shingles on its location and then requested permission from the city to use the land as a scrap yard. Not a great neighbor for a park, much less a residence.)

But in the council’s consent agenda yesterday was a second land acquisition that may rectify another environmental injustice: the purchase of 124-acres in the Great Trinity Forest that will create a huge new park in a part of the city that desperately needs public green space. The council approved spending of roughly $750,000 from the city’s Reforestation Fund to acquire 124 acres of land that were once part of the private Dallas Hunting and Fishing Club. The site is located along the Trinity River just south of Interstate 20 near Dowdy Ferry and Merlin Roads.

I spoke to Trinity explorer and watchdog Ben Sandifer yesterday, who pointed out the acquisition to me. He said the parcel is filled with old growth forest that has never been timbered, including a number of very old trees. Sandifer said the parks department has been working to acquire the land for some time, and the owner was happy to get it off its hands. According to the ownership’s website, the Dallas Hunting and Fishing Club was founded in 1885 by John Trezevant and Billy Gaston (yes, that Gaston), and it is one of the oldest continually operating clubs of its kind. They are in the process of recapitalizing and reorganizing the private club, and the sale of the land to the city generates some much-needed cash.

For the city of Dallas, the purchase creates some much-needed parkland and scores a significant conservation win. Because the land was purchased through the Reforestation Fund, the trees on the property can not be removed or cut down. That may sound odd at first – a “reforestation” fund being used to purchase existing forest. But by acquiring the property Dallas is ensuring that this corner of the Trinity Forest remains, well, forested.

The acquisition came on the same day as the city’s adopted a new Urban Forest Master Plan. I asked Sandifer about that as well, and he was more measured. The plan is long on context and short on details, and like Dallas’ dozens and dozens of other plans for the Trinity, its effectiveness will ultimately come down to whether or not the city manager and staff are motivated to employ it.

But let’s leave those concerns aside for now and celebrate a big win for the city, the forest, and conservation: 120 of primeval forest that should now remain that way forever. Did I jinx it?

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