Aside from ‘historic latrine’ issue, final Flag Pole Hill public-input meeting was mellow

Third iteration of proposed Flag Pole Hill Master Plan, by Dunaway and City of Dallas Parks and Recreation Department

It was the third, and least eventful (a good thing) of three community input meetings regarding plans to overhaul Flag Pole Hill.

The public had three opportunities — a meeting last November, another in March and a third Tuesday — to see each iteration of blueprints for revamping the park, playground, woodlands/prairies and namesake flag-atop-pole. Each meeting has been less crowded and less contentious, and that is likely because neighbors who are passionate about the land feel their concerns have been heard and considered throughout the planning process, District 10 Councilman Adam McGough hopes.

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“We would be open to another meeting if we felt it was needed,” he says. But remaining complaints, by Tuesday, were limited.

Small changes to the design still are possible. McGough says the idea of replacing planned concrete pathways with a softer material, which a few people suggested Tuesday, is a good one that he would like the consultants to consider.

Closer look

The tone has changed significantly among neighbors since a November unveiling of the initial proposed master plan, where angry members of the standing-room-only crowd rose to question representatives of Dunaway, the city’s consultant, and criticize the design. The scene was far friendlier during March’s gathering, at which attendees lined up to thank officials for returning to the drawing board to create plans with less impact on natural wildlife and historic architecture as well as for responding to the participating people’s wishes.

In fact, there was a time, before any meetings had been scheduled, when a faction of White Rock area activists were voicing via social media concerns that McGough and Park Board representative Robb Stewart were secretly trying to renovate Flag Pole behind the backs of residents. Of those early conspiracy theories, McGough says perhaps something positive emerged  —  that is, a real interest in what is happening at Flag Pole Hill, attendance at the meetings and a plan that is genuinely collaborative.

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As we reported in March, designers at the previous meeting had narrowed their presentation down to two possible plans. One of the main decisions was where to situate a new all-abilities playground — move it, or reconstruct over the existing playground. The majority of those who offered input requested the latter, and that is the plan.

“Is everyone OK with the placement of the playground?” queried one Dunaway consultant. The crowd responded with murmurs of sanction. Note that the playground design is not yet complete, only its location is defined, so we will go into more depth about that later.

The majority of concepts shown Tuesday have been seen and met the approval of most of the involved community members — existing nature trails in wooded areas (but no new ones), preservation and enhancement of the “grand lawn,” way-finding and nature-related informational signage in wooded areas and path connections and safe sidewalks along Lanshire.

The “historic latrines” atop Flag Pole Hill will not be open for use because they cannot be made compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

One question that seems to plague park-goers universally — what about bathrooms? — did come up.

The historic latrines, built before WWII, will be cleaned up and remained locked.

Presenters pointed to the “historic latrines” section of the scheme. The permanent bathrooms are considered historic because the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) built them back in the late 30s. They match the style of many structures at White Rock Lake, including the pavilion at Flag Pole Hill. So they will remain in place. Long after the toilets’ construction, however, came the Americans with Disabilities Act, and these old latrines are not ADA complaint. So they cannot be reopened as functioning restrooms. Thus, planners will stick with portable toilets aside the historic latrine, which will remain barred and locked.

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“So you are saying there will be restrooms there that cannot be used?” asks one attendee. “Yes.”

The Flag Pole Hill pavilion also was constructed by the CCC, in the same style as the latrines in question, which will remain as historic structures, although park goers will have to make do with portables.

The same question, worded in various ways, popped up a few more times, as in: “Can we get back to the historic latrines for a minute?”

It was almost as if those remaining at the meeting’s end (after all, even some of the most involved park activists walked in, glanced at the Power Point screen and left early) had to dig for details to scrutinize.

McGough says that the final plan to be submitted for Park Board approval will be shared with the public as soon as possible. That might be at the board meeting, which is open to the public, or it could be sooner. “If I am able to share them sooner than that, I will,” McGough assures.

The date for the presentation to the Park Board has not yet been set, but it will be take place the next few weeks.


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