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.