Is parking on Winfrey Point grass a big deal or not?


Winfrey Point by Justin Terveen

Good Morning America’s Sam Champion was at the Dallas Arboretum last week filming a segment for the nationally syndicated morning show. It was a huge coup for the arboretum — its installment of the much-lauded Dale Chihuly exhibit was broadcast to more than 5 million viewers all over the country.

That same morning, dozens of White Rock Lake neighbors gathered at nearby Winfrey Point to protest, petition and picket the Arboretum’s use of Blackland prairie for overflow parking during the exhibit, which is expected to boost the arboretum’s already staggering visitor numbers.

For the arboretum, it was the worst possible timing. Neighbors upset about damage to White Rock Lake, however, might call it poetic justice.

At the very least, it’s extremely ironic.

Between the Chihuly exhibit opening and the parking mayhem, we’ve probably mentioned the Dallas Arboretum on our website a record number of times over the past week. That’s taking into account that on a normal basis, the arboretum probably receives just as much, and possibly more, press from us as anything else we cover.

Some of you may be sick of hearing about it. Some of you may be upset that we’re still covering the Chihuly exhibit. Some of you would be fine with seeing the prairie paved over.

That’s why I love living here. We all have different perspectives, and have so much to learn from one another. And it’s never boring.

The dilemma in this situation, for those of us who aren’t experts on ecosystems, is that it’s hard to know what or whom to believe right now.

Do we believe the Dallas Arboretum, which told us in last Friday’s press release that Winfrey Point being an endangered ecosystem “could not be further from the truth,” that “non-native grasses and plants at Winfrey Point need to be kept under control and appropriately mowed or eradicated,” and that “those unfamiliar with the situation are being misled by those with an agenda”?

Or do we believe the neighbors behind the Save Winfrey Point and Pave the Lake websites, who continue to argue that Winfrey Point’s Blackland prairie should be protected, who tug on heart strings with photos of a bird’s nest near the grasslands, and who accuse the city and the Arboretum of conspiring behind the scenes to deflect questions raised about environmental studies?

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around all of this, and to be honest, I’m a bit brain tired. At the end of the day, I don’t know if it matters whether Blackland prairie is an ecosystem worth preserving. The issue for me — and, I would guess, many of you — is that Winfrey Point is part of White Rock Lake Park, and turning parkland into parking isn’t acceptable. Especially in a city where it’s rare for a large swath of green space to be set aside for public enjoyment.

Right now, the city’s approval of using grass at White Rock Lake for parking is only as a temporary overflow parking lot. While the city has conducted a study examining the possibility of a permanent parking lot at Winfrey Point, it’s one of many possibilities, and nothing has been decided, as Christina Hughes Babb pointed out in yesterday’s thorough overview of recent events.

My hope is that the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden will continue to live up to its name, that the City of Dallas and its Park and Recreation Department will honor their commitment to our green spaces, and that they, along with White Rock Lake neighbors, will work together to find more creative and appropriate solutions for parking than using our parkland.

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  • Tedbarker

    It appears that Lincoln did create the ability for overflow at that Gaston location.  The first weekend, Sat use, low, Sun use low.  However, Mothers Day, full capacity.  Glad it was not on the wildflowers where the birds are in full nesting mode.

  • Wilson!

    Are you talking about the parking lot at Far West / YMCA?  It’s off the table due to impending redevlopment of that property.

  • MomtoWebster

    Why don’t they use the huge parking lot at Gaston and Grand’s NE corner and shuttle folk over to the Arboretum?  How much would it cost to do that??  It’s very nearby and it sits empty during daylight hours except for the El Regio restaurant….that lot will accommodate a LOT of overflow cars and will NOT harm Winfrey Point.

  • Mlejunque

    Ummm, yeah. Undestand the devil’s advocate role, but this is really about preserving natural space at the lake. I’d fight any one of the businesses trying to overtake natural spaces to park cars around the lake’s inner perimeter. The goal is not to act like a yuppie (yes, I just typed that word, outmoded as it is), North Faced clad environmentalist, but to protect OUR LAKE. It’s why most of us live in East Dallas…. because we HAVE A LAKE!!  Not many neighborhoods do, so we’d like to preserve the space and maintain the naturalistic views, etc.  If I wanted more pavement, I’d live next to North Park Mall. I’m a cyclist and runner, and I consider that lake a personal, sacred space, away from all the urban concrete. It’s a place of respite and rest from the heat of city living.

  • Michael Mosteller

    Or maybe those whose houses overlook that “field full of weeds” and others who enjoy going to the Lake would rather not have 400 cars parked there to help out an organization who so poorly mismanaged their own growth that they need to steal parkland and possibly destroy wild and plant life in the process. The Arboretum getting or not getting those 400 spaces will not make or break the Arboretum. This tired line of trying to paint opposition to their plans as anti-progress is so played out and patently untrue. I have been a Dallas Arboretum member for over 6 years. I want them to succeed. I’m excited about the new Children’s Exhibit and plan to take my kids there frequently. But the Arboretum has failed miserably in controlling and planning for their own growth. 

    Last time I checked, that field full of weeds had a ton of really nice wildflowers growing in it. 

  • Anonymous

    Shame on you!  Winfrey Point is a very special ecosystem that deserves protection.  DMN just ran a story that the Arboretum’s Phd botanist/expert really is not a Phd.  So, Texas A&M has traveled to the site to share their expertise.  The Arboretum and Parks and Recreation have not been good stewards of the environment….and they are the elitists who tried to mow over the public.  Now that they have been exposed, perhaps they will work with the taxpayers and find an acceptable compromise.

  • OnTheWhip

    I’ll come at this from the other side. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much over-reaction (which seems to be extremely fashionable these days) whipped up as when, I think everyone would agree, one of the most prominent and positive fixtures in East Dallas suggested allowing patrons attending an overwhelmingly positive event TEMPORARILY park their cars in a field. (Oh, get off the whole ‘blackland prairie’ high horse, will ya? It’s a FIELD!) A field full of weeds that has, in all likelihood,  been mowed and dug and parched and scorched and overgrown and trampled on and peed on and so on countless times in our lifetimes and still it perseveres. Somehow.

    Suddenly you give it a gold-plated, fifty-dollar Madison Avenue label and it’s elevated to some lofty perch up there with the Whooping Crane. Guess what? Those weeds will all grow back. In no time at all. And all the little creatures will come back. And the land of Aquarius will be restored to peace and order and harmony. If you don’t think so, PLEASE come over to my little patch of blackland prairie and use your magic mower one final time so I can sell mine and kick back on the weekends. Yeah, yeah, I know someone suggested a parking garage in the long term plan. That’s a separate issue from using a field for a little while to park some cars in.

    It was only a few years ago that the Arboretum was struggling and at risk of going under. What would you rather have as a neighbor, the Degolyer mansion or a strip center?

    The rampant, feverish double-standard and hypocrisy, mainly among white, middle class foodie fashionistas (how many North Face logos were at the protest?) who are “doing something” by re-locating their car’s exhaust pipe to the nearest coal-fired power plant is amazing. If you’re so concerned about preserving ‘blackland prairie’ you’d save many hundreds of times more of it laying down in front of the dozers in Plano and Frisco and Rockwall that are plowing under and paving over hundreds and hundreds of acres a week. Or in front of the farmers’ combines cultivating the wheat and the corn that you find in your  cereal. (Wonder how that’d work out?). Didn’t see anything about that on the news. But that would require real commitment. Every day. Not just a brief, ‘look-at-me’ saturday morning social with the neighbors singing songs and carrying signs that “mostly say hurray for my side”? (Where’d you “activists” park for that?)

  • Betsy

    There are two downtown parks I can think of, where exhibitions and mass public offerings would be easy to handle.  White Rock Lake, and the Arboretum by definition, are not urban exhibition spaces.  They are, or should be, demonstrations of the power of nature to soothe and raise the spirit and bring people together in harmony.  They should not be commercial spaces, IMV.

  • Melissa

    “…turning parkland into parking isn’t acceptable. Especially in a city where it’s rare for a large swath of greenspace to be set aside for public enjoyment.”

    Hear hear!!

  • Alanrodriguezjr

    Agreed…. Why is parking on garland road not an option?

  • Alanrodriguezjr

    How do we organize parking on garland road?

  • Tedbarker

    You get it!

  • Michael Mosteller

    Just got this email from the Arboretum. Seems they came to their senses and listened to the public on this. They will not be mowing the prairies. 

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Mary BrinegarChief Executive Officer & PresidentDallas Arboretum DALLAS (May 9, 2012) – On Tuesday, May 8, the leadership of the Dallas Arboretum asked Paul Dyer, Dallas Park and Recreation Department director; Joan Walne, Dallas Park Board president; Councilman Sheffield Kadane, City Council District 9; and Gerry Worrall, District 9 Park Board not to proceed with current plans to mow the previously approved area at Winfrey Point.  
    Over the past couple of weeks, the Arboretum has heard the opinions of its friends and neighbors and recognizes any plans to temporarily park at Winfrey Point have resulted in serious misunderstandings that need to be addressed. We are committed to being a good neighbor and steward to the citizens of East Dallas, the metroplex and all of North Texas.
    We are looking forward to working with city officials and neighborhood associations in the immediate future to develop a plan that best serves the interest of all parties involved. It is our pledge to endeavor to make such planning transparent. Thank you for your patience while we work to find a solution to the City’s and our parking needs.

  • Michael Mosteller

    I’m still confused on what the “agenda” is that the Dallas Arboretum was talking about? Is this a not so thinly veiled shot at the neighborhoods that live around the Arboretum? Is the Arboretum trying to say those who object to giving the Arboretum everything it ever wants are standing in the way of the Arboretum’s success? I’d love to poll any of the Arboretum board members and ask them if they would prefer to have a grassland around their houses turned into a temporary parking lot for 6 months? I’m sure the poll would come back heavily in favor of that never happening. Yet this is what they want their Emerald Isle neighbors to put up with. An already overcrowded area getting more cars, more traffic, and more headaches. 

    The Arboretum’s questionable actions and methods to get what it wants out of the Parks Department have certainly lent credence to people who say the Arboretum is a bad neighbor who doesn’t care how it affects those around it. In my view, all of this bad press is the fault of the Arboretum. They have been acting in bad faith and secrecy on this issue. It took an open records request from concerned citizens to get the temporary parking issue brought into the public’s view. Without it, they would have flow under the radar and people would have come to Winfrey Point one Saturday afternoon and wondered why 400 cars were magically parked where a prairie used to be. It took a temporary restraining order to get the Arboretum to agree to no permanent parking structure at Winfrey Point. It still galls me that our city is giving away parkland to an entity that had such little foresight on how to properly proceed with their own expansion. I can grant that the Lincoln Property purchase of Far West and the Y threw a huge monkey wrench into their parking plans but why was a permanent parking fix not already in the works? Why was there not a good plan in place before the shovel hit the dirt on the Children’s area expansion? Why did it take all this bad press to get the Arboretum to back off? Why is an organization that is supposed to protect natural beauty so eager to destroy something that isn’t 100% manufactured like their landscapes? 

    This idea that well this really isn’t a natural prairie so we should be allowed to mow it down and park 400 cars on it is so patently offensive that it makes me want to cancel my Arboretum membership and never set foot there again. To think a nature center wants to park cars on an area of grass some 200 feet away from the Lake is just astounding to me. If you want to control the invasive plants then there’s an argument to be made. But to mow it down to supposedly save it only to park 400 cars for up to 6 months and allow for all types of automotive leakage (oil, radiator, gasoline) to seep into the soil is just making me shake my head that this is coming from the board of a nature center and a self taught botanist.

    This is a big issue for me because it is a perfect example of how some in this city think they can have whatever they want and act extremely arrogant when someone stands in their way. I’m glad the neighbors around Winfrey Point have rallied to put some pause on all this. I’m glad Sheffie Kadane lent his name to this cause and is acting as an advocate for those who want to keep the prairies at Winfrey Point. I’m glad this blog has done such a great job of reporting on this issue. It’s refreshing to see people not take this sort of abuse sitting down. We should demand more accountability out of our city especially when they want to give away land at a public amenity to an organization that severely dropped the ball and created their own problem by a lack of foresight. And then to treat those of us who object with such contempt. It’s the height of arrogance but again, this is Dallas. This is what the elite thinks they can get away with, plebeians be damned. 

    This is our East Dallas and our Lake. We have to fight for it.  

  • BW

    This is not the “virgin” prairie land that some would have you believe.  Until the budget crunch of recent years, it was mowed regularly and any runner of long-standing can tell you that we parked all over the grass for races and other events for years.  The real issue is a permanent parking facility in an area that doesn’t have the road system to handle the traffic and whether or not you want to destroy what is up to now an un-commercialized White Rock Lake.  The other big issue is the clandestine way that the City and the Arboretum discussed this situation.  We need more transparency in government, not less.  If both the City and the Arboretum had been more forthcoming on their plans, there would still have been opposition but it would not have caused the uproar that it did.

  • Tedbartker

    Be sure to read the Lone Star Land Steward Award application on

    Read all the docs, see the huge map downloads, then we can discuss details.  Meantime, do we wish to change the character of the eastern shore forever?  The Arboretum should and could have planned in advance for onsight parking. Read the DMN 1983 article on mission intent. I don’t have permission from DMN to share as published. Any interested parties contact the Advocate.

  • Betsy

    The city, the park department and the Arboretum would be smart to engage in a cooperative effort with the neighborhoods and lake maintenance volunteers to resolve this parking issue for the longer term.  There will be no good ending unless there is honest, sincere collaboration and cooperation.   What will it cost the city to pay for the shoreline cleanup that volunteers do for free out of their love of the Lake?

  • stuart

     A neat idea but could be challenging given the multiple entrances. I expect the people who live on W Lawther wouldn’t be happy either.

  • Chris

    This is a more balanced approach that recognizes there is always more to the story. The city is showing a bit of hypocrisy by preventing runners from using Winfrey Point as temporary parking but not the Arboretum. Either allow everyone to use it for temporary parking or nobody. The neighboorhoods are relying on the recreational users to defend the lake but they were the first ones to scream loudly when the recreational users wanted lights at the lake for safety. The sacred prairie grass isnt that special. The reality is that the “prairie grass” is mostly dead weeds in the middle of the summer and it’s been here long before us will be here long after. The simple solution is a parking grave somewhere along Garland Rd that both the Arboretum and events at Winfrey Point can use.

  • cmathia

    Thank you, Keri, for your reasoned and honest approach.

  • Tejasmom

     They don’t want a lakeside gate because they’d have to provide a ticket gate and security – which means paying more employees.  I suggested that when I was on the membership committee several years ago.  I still think it would be worthwhile.  Also, it seems that the proposal to build a parking lot at Winfrey Point is only one of 25 proposals.  I think due to the outcry, that will not be one that will happen.

  • chughesbabb

    Wow. Nice photo.

  • Betsy

    I heard that the parking lot on Garland Road was reduced from multi-story to ground level only under pressure from a certain Homeowners Assn.  It would be far better for everyone,
    if that lot were turned into a 4 story parking garage…with shrubs etc on the road…so that Winfrey Point can remain wild.  There really should not be a need for this ruckus.  City Hall and the Park Dept. really need to be sensitive to the people who volunteer to keep the Lake shore clean every month.  Those folks love the Lake, and those neighbors near the Point and elsewhere along the shoreline, are in a sense sentinels on behalf of the lake.  Heed their pleas,

  • Milly

    It occurred to me last night why the Arboretum hasn’t done squat to encourage alternate ways in like the lakeside gate.  THEY CHARGE FOR PARKING.

  • Rick

    Huge  PR mistake.  The Arboretum just opened a brand new employee parking lot on the other side of Garland Rd.  Knowing their need for parking, why didn’t they try to build a multi story parking garage there? 

  • Anonymous

    Hear, hear! The worlds other great parks are figuring out ways to remove cars and here we are trying to be more accomidating. Let’s stop being 30 years behind the times.

  • stuart

    If it is so important that the grass be mowed to prevent fires and such, why did they stop in the first place?

  • Marie

    I actually don’t think we need more parking at WRL. I’d love to see an entry gate to the lake, much like a state park, charging a nominal fee (think $1) for entrance. Build a parking garage outside the perimeter of the lake and allow people to hike in for picnics, use bicycles. We need LESS car traffic here, not more. Allow it to be a nature preserve, pedestrian and bike friendly. Allow commerce to flourish outside the natural perimeter of the lake, not on the lake itself. We have very few natural spaces left, so let’s keep this one pristine and natural. People who live on the lake should have to buy a permit to enter the park area to drive to their homes. $365 a year for a permit shouldn’t be  too much to ask of the folks that live in the area (I reside right on the lake, too, so I am willing to pay this price).

    Let’s think less Central Park, and think more like State Park.

  • khg

    I think the big deal is that all of this was done behind closed doors without any public hearings. I live at the lake and have seen it very full for the Marathon, March of Dimes walk, Mother’s Day etc. It always seems to work. I really don’t believe parking is as big of issue as they say.

    Dallas is very well known for taking something beautiful and ruing every natural thing that was beautiful about it. It’s sort of a give ’em an inch, they’ll take a mile sort of thing. I really believe we have to watch them at all times.

    Plus, the whole tram/trolley thing? Disneyland indeed.

    If it truly is just for the Chihuly exhibit, why don’t they ask one of their “major sponsors” AT&T if they can borrow their lot right across Garland Road on the weekends??? 

  • Jennifw

    jd – what was the duration of the project to dredge the lake and how long did it take for it to return to the grasslands?  My concern is that the temporary parking will turn into permanent parking (with concrete, lighting, increased traffic) and the grasslands will never return.   We already have too much concrete.  I don’t think the Arboretum has explored all of the options yet.

  • jd

    In 1998/99 when they dredged the lake they used Winfrey point as the “base”. It was covered with heavy equipment and the path was temporarily detoured (paved) to cut across the point. I challenge you to find any adverse effects from that today. To the contrary the dredging marked the beginning of a renaissance for the that ultimately led to people being so concerned today.

    I think this whole thing has lacked perspective and balance. We need more parking at WRL (there are already parking lots on the point) because people love going to the lake. We need to figure out a way to do it so people still want to go there. Temporary parking in the grass (by permit) for special events should be an option. But we really need some long term parking options and there is going to have to be some compromise.