Standing in her grandfather’s shadow, seven-year-old Mary Poss kept a firm grip on the fishing pole, poised and ready for glory as the waters of White Rock Lake glinted in the morning sun. Then it happened. The line grew taunt, her breath caught in surprise, and … and … . The Warrior Victorious. Raw power. Man Against Nature. Well — Little Girl Against Nature. Cheering, adulation.
Then they let the turtle go.
Okay, maybe the end result wasn’t as impressive as catching an actual fish and, no, it wasn’t a career milestone — such as serving as mayor pro tem for the City of Dallas, which is Poss’ adult identity. But that long ago day remains fixed in her mind. Like others who grew up in the neighborhood, the Lake is an anchor for her memories, and her loyalties.
Poss also serves as vice-chair for the Council on Governments and day to day hears numerous remarks that support her position on preserving one of nature’s sanctuaries — remarks about what a beautiful urban asset the citizens of Dallas enjoy in White Rock Lake Park. “An asset,” says Poss, “unparalleled in the region and perhaps the nation.”
Poss’ observation is no exaggeration; acres of wildlife and aquatic beauty can be found adjacent to any number of small communities in less inhabited parts of the United States, but such natural luxuries are pretty much unheard of in the heart of a major city.
This is probably why there was ample support for the ’90s bond that provided for comprehensive dredging of the Lake — a project that rewarded the City by successfully wrapping up in 11 months, ahead of schedule, nearly $600,000 under budget, and with 25% more silt removed than estimated — leaving the additional funds available for future improvements.
Next on the Lake list are plans attached to the $2.1 million bond package that passed. These funds will enable improvements to the roadway, and to the hike and bike trails. Work has begun so bikers and joggers will be pleased that, in most cases, automobile traffic on the roadway will be separated from the trails, not just for aesthetic reasons but, more importantly, for safety. Most trails will be asphalt and roadways concrete. Also, mile markers will be installed along the trails.
So many people are using the Lake and its facilities for entertaining that improvements to the Dreyfuss Club, Winfrey Point and Flagpole Hill are necessary. Landscaping and structural needs will make these facilities perfect for family reunions, wedding receptions, children and youth gatherings. Visitors will also benefit from what Poss calls “fun-improvements.”
“The city recently replanted the lily pads around Lily Pad Bay,” she says. “Not long after the planting I received a call indicating there was some bad news: it seems that the ducks enjoyed dining on those lily pads.
“We laughed and replanting is expected once again.”
The City Water Department is overseeing the Spillway Design Plan that will significantly enhance the appearance and mobility to the entrance of the Lake near the intersection of Gaston, Grand and Garland Road. This area will also connect with the hike and bike trail. In addition to the April 1 opening of the new East Dallas YMCA, adjacent to the spillway at 7305 Gaston, Poss says plans are being developed for a spillway corridor with retail shops and restaurants.
In the know
If public enjoyment and recreation are the most touted features of White Rock Lake Park, the educational benefits certainly run a close second. This natural wildlife habitat provides many research opportunities, which has prompted the development of two new educational centers around the Lake: the Environmental Center of Dallas and the Trammel Crow Visitors Pavilion.
The Environmental Center of Dallas (ECO), in conjunction with the City Council and the Park Department, will create the ECO Center at the Filter Building adjacent to the Pump Station. This center will be used for environmental exhibits featuring White Rock Lake Park and the Dallas area. The educational activities will help sensitize children to the mystery and fun of the environment. Bird watching trips, nature walks, and kayaking will be a few of the offerings; funds are currently being raised to begin this project.
This spring, The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden will break ground on the Trammel Crow Visitors Education Pavilion. By fall 2001, visitors, as well as local businesses and schools, can use this facility for meetings or educational purposes.
“In the meantime,” says Karen Cage, marketing manager for the Arboretum, “visitors this summer can enjoy Cool Thursday evening concerts and the Texas Pioneer Adventure educational display for children.”
Several nonprofit groups have made it their mission to help preserve White Rock Lake Park. These groups include The White Rock Lake Foundation and For The Love Of The Lake. The purpose of the Foundation is to assist the Park and Recreation Department in restoration, improvement, maintenance and preservation — in other words, the honing of the Lake’s natural health and beauty for the benefit of people and wildlife.
Steve Ryba, vice chair of the Foundation, and a landscape architect, reports that currently the Foundation is working with the concept of a Master Plan to insure the integrity of Lake, and that restoration is uniform and comprehensive.
“Our biggest concern is the restoration and integrity of the shoreline,” says Ryba. “Visitors should be able to walk up to the shore and not worry about any dangerous debris”
For The Love Of The Lake is a grassroots group of volunteers working to improve White Rock Lake and the surrounding park. Since its inception in 1995, thousands of people have participated in a variety of ways, from picking up litter to fundraising events.
“Recently, FTLOTL has purchased five bicycles for the Dallas Police Department Bike Patrols,” says volunteer Marci Winter, who started FTLOTL with a small group of people that has grown larger year by year. “We have many other projects being considered including additional signage.”
This group meets every second Saturday for Shoreline Spruce-up at the Bathhouse Cultural Center, 8 a.m.
One man, 95 trees
It doesn’t take an organization or city department to make a difference. Kurt Kretsinger, a local businessman and neighbor to the Lake, kept noticing an obvious lack of trees at the Mockingbird and Lawther entrance of White Rock Lake Park. He enthusiastically made it his mission to see that this gap was — literally — filled.
“I wanted the community to be involved in this project,” says Kretsinger. “So I went to several different businesses and groups to see if we could work together and get the job done.”
His vision of a comprehensive community project came to life on Nov. 20, l999, when the dirt flew and 95 trees found a new home. This project was structured in such a way that individuals, corporations and major donors could contribute time and money for the purchase and maintenance of these trees.
“Donations ranged from $5 allowances given by children to a $10,000 donation by Trammel Crow,” says Kretsinger. “Trammel Crow is the founder of the National Tree Trust and had read about the project in the Urban Forestry News and was willing to cover the entire cost. When he called me, he said: This is Trammel Crow and how much money do you need?
“I thought it was a friend playing a joke on me.”
He soon realized it was Trammel Crow, and they negotiated for the philanthropist to donate half the cost, because Kretsinger wanted the community to have ownership as well.
The local businesses that participated included Hooker Ballew Printing Company and Advocate magazines. Michael Costen, president of the Northeast Dallas Chamber of Commerce, agreed to accept the contributions through their nonprofit status; Poss was the liaison between the City and what became know as the Mockingbird Lane Tree Project.
On that day in November, 10 varieties of trees were planted and, for the next two years, the maintenance of the trees has been covered by the funds raised. The City will take responsibility of the maintenance after the two years are up. Kretsinger excitedly proclaims that, so far, all the trees are alive and well.
This successful project has inspired others to initiate similar neighborhood projects. The Abrams Road Home Owners Association is planning to plant 20-30 trees using this approach.
That the Lake is an attraction for visitors, as well as homeowners, is evident today more than ever. Growth can be seen just south of the Lake where two high-end multi-family developments are underway and two single-family developments are under consideration.
“White Rock Lake Park is more than just an extremely successful works project,” Mary Poss says, “it is an asset to the city of Dallas. It is used by hundreds of people daily, for many different types of recreational and leisure activities. The Lake was neglected, like our streets, for many years.
“We won’t let that happen again.”
To learn more, see the White Rock Lake Discovery Guide and Map distributed with this issue of the Advocate. The Guide contains information about recreation areas, trails, upcoming events and how to contact the organizations that work for the Lake’s preservation.