Along the White Rock Trail, west of the lake and just north of its spillway, a somewhat freshly paved path forks south.
It is, so far, the road less traveled.
Where does it go? It is unmarked, which could explain why relatively few runners or cyclists veer off on it. When they do, the trail takes them over Garland Road, across a bridge that was constructed in September 2010, through the Hollywood/Santa Monica neighborhood, past Lindsley and Randall parks and Woodrow Wilson High School, and, if they continue, to the Deep Ellum area. Eventually it will stretch to Fair Park.
This 12-foot-wide Santa Fe Trail, like all public parks and paths, is maintained by the Dallas Park and Recreation Department. But, if this sporadically populated, shade-deprived concrete swath is to evolve into a source of neighborhood pride, it will require the help of friends. Not fickle friends, but rather a stalwart, dedicated and loyal band of buddies bent on turning the Santa Fe into an aesthetic, user-friendly space that reflects the unique sensibilities of East Dallas.
In response to that need, the nonprofit foundation Friends of the Santa Fe Trail, comprising East Dallas homeowners and trail users, evolved a few years ago.
Today, as members prepare for the second annual Friends of the Santa Fe Trail 5k fundraising run, they are fired up about all the possibilities.
They aim to do for the Santa Fe Trail what another strong nonprofit, Friends of the Katy Trail, did for Katy Trail, near the Park Cities, “but East Dallas style,” board member Lawrence Mendive says.
“Like Katy Trail, we want to add amenities, fountains, rest areas, trail heads, lights.” But East Dallas has a different character than the neighborhood that surrounds Katy Trail, he says and therefore the plan for Santa Fe Trail is distinct.
“We see the Woodrow [Wilson High School] community getting involved with the planning, contributing ideas … bike rental places, public art, a representation of the various neighborhoods it goes through. People use the Santa Fe for different reasons — exercise, walking, commuting to or from work or from Downtown, and kids use it to get to and from school. There is a more diverse group of people who go through,” Mendive says.
In August, Friends of the Santa Fe Trail commissioned award-winning architects at Good Fulton & Farrell to do a design study; they say it is the first major step in planning the Santa Fe project.
“We told them to think big. Think outside the norm,” Mendive says. “We want to set new standards.”
The firm came up with some ideas not often, or perhaps ever, seen around Dallas.
One of the suggestions the friends really liked, Mendive says, is a wall made from durable, contemporary looking materials that lines the trail. It would complement the functional art that lines and arches over portions of the trail.
Another favorite idea is a vine-lined overhead trellis that shades a portion of the trail, allowing for travelers to stop for snacks at hypothetical food trucks.
Dog park, skate park, learning garden, artistic lighting, a sail boat canopy, a separate runners’ trail and benches that look like long, brightly colored ribbons are among ideas floated by the designers.
The early stage ideas are merely that, says Greg Shelton, president of the Friends of Santa Fe Trail. The friends plan to seek input from the community and the schools.
“There is still room for neighborhoods to make suggestions,” he says.
And, of course, they note, in order to progress with any of it, they will need to raise the funds.
Once they have an official design plan in place, they will set goals and commence more fundraising campaigns.
A visual presentation of the most up-to-date plans for the Santa Fe Trail will be unveiled, amid appropriate fanfare, at the 2012 Friends of the Santa Fe Trail 5k.
Race chair Chris Angarola says he expects a big turnout. The first race last year was a hit, he says. People turned out in droves. This year, there is even more awareness and more enthusiasm for the event, he says.
“I got an incredible amount of positive feedback from runners,” he says. The friends raised about $8,000 last year, which they put toward the design studies.
The Friends of the Santa Fe Trail
5k is Thursday, Oct. 11 at 6:15 p.m. at Lindsley Park, 722 Tenison Memorial. Register online at runproject.org/santa-fe-5k or beginning at 5:15 p.m. race day.
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