Arboretum can park cars on grass at Winfrey Point

The Park Board has approved allowing the Dallas Arboretum to use grassy areas around Winfrey Point for temporary overflow parking during the arboretum’s Chihuly exhibit, May 5-Nov. 5. The arboretum will be allowed to park as many as 400 cars there, using its own parking management staff. The city and the arboretum could consider making those temporary parking spaces permanent sometime in the future.

That plan irks neighbors in Emerald Isle who worry about property values if parking lots ruin their lake views. And it’s distressing for students, naturalists and biologists who study these grassy areas, which as a whole make up a blackland prairie remnant. This blackland prairie is a rare ecosystem, especially unusual in an urban area, and it has attracted creatures scarcely seen in the city.

“When I told my students about it there was a collective sigh and then irate indignation by all of them,” says Toni E. Herrin, a St. John’s Episcopal School teacher whose eighth-grade students won a grant to study the prairie.

Master naturalist Becky Rader began studying the area in 1998, when biologists first recognized it was a blackland prairie remnant. She says more than 70 plant species can be found in the prairie, which also is a home to the dickcissel, a prairie-dwelling sparrow that has been on the Audubon watch list. Besides that, the prairie’s root system increases the quality and quantity of ground water. The roots also mitigate damage after drought, fire or flooding.

Parking cars on the prairie once or twice a year probably wouldn’t hurt it, Rader says. After all, herds of buffalo used to come through this area, when it was all a vast prairie, and graze for three weeks at a time. The prairie adapted to that. But she doesn’t think it could survive being a parking lot for six months or more.

“They’ll destroy it,” she says. “Cars will leak oil and other contaminants into the soil, causing pollution. You’ll have people getting out when it’s wet, which will cause soil compression.”

Rader says the Park Department stopped mowing the area around Winfrey Point in 1998, 14 years ago, and she nominated the city for a Texas Land Steward Award, which it won, in 2005, seven years ago. But Park Board representative Gerald Worrall and arboretum president Mary Brinegar say the land was mowed and used for parking regularly until just five years ago.

The arboretum has 670 parking spaces onsite and 1,545 off-site parking spaces. But that might not be enough if the Chihuly exhibit is mobbed with 5,000 tourists on its opening weekend, for example. The arboretum wanted to be prepared for such an event. And rather than having people “wandering around” looking for parking and clogging neighborhoods with parked cars, they asked the Park Department for help with parking spaces, Brinegar says. The arboretum will use Winfrey Point for overflow parking only after all their other parking lots are full, and they will use their own staff to coordinate parking and direct traffic.

Hopefully, attendance for the Chihuly exhibit will be manageable in regards to parking, Brinegar says. But if not, they want to be prepared.

“If a great number of people came at one time, where would they go?” she says.

This coming Friday, a day before the Chihuly exhibit opens, the St. John’s students plan to “dead-head” Queen Anne’s lace, an invasive plant, in an effort to keep the prairie pure. They’re inviting the community to participate in the seed removal, from 4-6 p.m., and they will give tours of the prairie. Go check it out. What was planned as an event to raise awareness about the prairie’s value and importance just might turn out to be one of the last times for us to see it. That is, if it’s not mowed first.

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  • Tedbarker

    Aha, one of the rabble-rousers actually called Luke’s agent. Luke starred in Hoot. This was an environmental melodrama.

  • Wilson!

    Isn’t there commercial-zoned property available along Garland Road, that wouldn’t require taking parkland and turning it into a parking lot?

    Or is the Arboretum somehow exempt from having to buy property for their expansion like other commercial ventures?  

  • Cristi

    We are hoping to get more media coverage of the travesty so everyone knows the truth about what is planned.  It is not just “temporary” parking on prairie land – which is bad enough.  The ultimate goal is a parking garage, more paved parking, trams to shuttle the parkers, and opening the traffic barriers around the lake during peak times – weekends which are also the peak times for cyclists and pedestrians- so the cars can access the parking garage from Buckner via Lake Highlands Dr. or Poppy.  This creates significantly more vehicular traffic around the lake at precisely the times pedestrian and cyclist traffic is at its highest.  This is in direct opposition to all of the amazing progress that has been made over the last decade to help White Rock Lake become safer for cyclists and pedestrians! Please let your cycling and running groups know about this.  Check out the SaveWinfreyPoint website.

  • Tedbarker

    Do we need to ask one of the Wilson Boys, Luke, to come out and stand in front of the tractors? Does White Rock Lake controversy need the Hollywood touch?  Methinks so.

    We now have much more information from which to deduce the overall plan of the City. We all pondered the Mayor advocating the Winfrey Point Clubhouse as a Restaurant, now we know why, the Arboretum Winfrey Expansion Plan.

    Do you really want a Disney inspired tram shuffling thousands of Arboretum visitors back and forth to see concrete trees and glass visions of nature? 

    Oh, this is at the expense of normal park visitors who will have to shell out $20.00 to park.  Very little or NONE of that money would go back to City coffers, you know how that works, right.

    Lots of smart people live in this city, so let’s all put our heads together, force the City Fathers to pay attention to serious solutions.  Soapbox mode ended.

  • Tedbarker

    Rabbits everywhere and population rising only because of the prarie rejuvination. But, also displaced from the conversion of the Camp house area into Disney-like, concrete tree filled “research garden”.

    You ought to see the hawks, owls, fox, coyote, and varieties of birds, wonderful.

  • Junkyvan

    I was just there yesterday at Winfrey Point… and saw a family of rabbits running around in that grass… poor little guys!

  • Junkyvan

    What a bunch of bullies! They should of planned for parking BEFORE the added new growth to the arboretum! They already make a killing from parking fees already!! Go have people park someone else like at the old Big Town mall parking lot and shuttle them over.

  • CitizenKane

    I agree.  The Arboretum has become very successful.  It is time they spend their own money and deal with the problem – ON SITE.

  • CitizenKane

    Maybe the Arboretum should scale things back.  Not become such a sizeable attraction.  And hold more of it’s events on weekdays !

  • Wilson!

    This is ridiculous!  If the Arboretum has gotten too big for their britches, they should have to pony up the cash and build a parking lot, like any other business would.  This problem has been growing and growing, and now they want to destroy this area that has been nursed back closer to its native state, so they can rake in more cash.

  • EI Neighbor

    The hypocrisy of the arboretum is unbelievable. The leadership of this fine establishment panders to the donors on the other side of central with no regard whatsoever for the surrounding areas or for the flora or fauna of the lake. I have watched for months as they destroy ecosystems, tear down trees and fabricate their latest ‘attraction”.  Dallas Little League has over 1,000 families as members enjoying the newly constructed baseball fields and now they want to potentially  pave over them to accomodate more cars?  How about leaving the beauty of nature and baseball for the kids instead of fabricating a “childrens garden” 

  • EI Neighbor


  • Patti

    Everyday I drive down Garland Road to work. I shake my head at the irony of the Arboretum taking out an entire block of mature trees to pave it for a parking lot for people that work at the Arboretum taking care of mature trees and plants.

  • NotSurprized

    According to persons close to the controversy, the City of Dallas has ceded control of Winfrey Point to the Dallas Arboretum and had granted a third party commercial enterprise the right to charge for use of parking at Winfrey Point. The Dallas Little League will be able to continue to use the park but will be required to have passes to enter the Park. From all indications if you want to drive to Winfrey Point, you must pay to park by the end of the week. Thank you City Council. Nice work….

  • Pingback: Dallas City Council To Pave Paradise – Put In A Parking Lot At White Rock Lake | Pave Paradise at White Rock Lake()

  • Dalguy

    The Arboretum does not care at all about the natural environment, the lake or the lake users.  If you think the Chihuly mob is bad just wait until they open their Children’s Amusement Park which should be named Six Flags Over White Rock.

  • Milly

    DLL is indicating there’s a long-term plan to allow Arboretum to access Winfrey Point to some unknown degree, which should raise alarms for everyone.  I love the Arboretum, but enough is enough.  Meticulously planned cultivated gardens have their place, but so does natural grassland and city park structures.  Build your own double-decker parking if you need them, don’t take over the east side of WRL!

  • Tedbarker

    We are wating to hear from Mr Chihuly who is a renowed ecologist.  I am glad you grasped this, now where did Brinegar go wrong.  Read the D Magazine article fron 1987.

  • Cephus

    Just so I am clear.  The city is going to let people destroy one of the very few natural attractions in our city so that people can park and pay to see the work of a self described artist/enviromentalist whose ” works are indicative of a complex artist tied to nature and the implications of man’s stamp on nature.”  Only in Dallas my friends–more money than brains.

    It would be interesting to hear what Mr. Chihuly himself thinks about this irony.

  • ParkingWara

    It’s hard enough to park there to see my son play baseball. Add in 400 more cars to an already crowded situation and our season might just be over. 

  • Tedbarker

    Joe is correct.  Worrall had written recently that this entire area has been overwhelmed for years with commercial fee-paid events.  The park was never intended for the pending or past overuse and abuse.  You guys called me “The Defender of White Rock Lake”. My motto was and is: Enough is Enough”.

  • cm

    This is very sad.

  • Joe Tex

    Under the Arboretum’s own master plan, they cannot park buses and cars in a residential area. The park is zoned residential. 

    And the proposed lots – for up to 2,000 buses and trucks – are right next to the retirement home and apartment complex. 

    The Arboretum needs to meet its parking requirements without dumping cars and buses into the park proper. 

  • Tedbarker

    Thank for the article. The planned expansion has been in the works for a long time. It was just not going to be revealed to anyone until a done deal.  Gerald Worrall sliped up and told Hal Barker about plans in early Feb 2012.   Both Brinegar and Worrall mis-spoke.  The area has only been mowed per Texas Land Steward guidelines.  Any and all parking on grass has been against the law.   I just got off the phone with DPDNE about their plans to enforce.   See: for late developments.  Also see D Magazine article 1987 on that blog.

    Condiser signing the petition being cirulated by Emerald Isle HOA. Link on the blog.