You don’t have to look far in East Dallas to find areas that have become greener during the past several years through the Dallas Parks Foundation’s efforts. So it seems only fitting that executive director Paula Peters put down her roots by buying a house here nine years ago.
Peters recently completed her first year with the foundation, a 10-year-old non-profit organization that encourages beautification through special programs such as Trees For Dallas and Adopt a Monument.
In a City that prides itself on a growing inventory of interesting, innovative business and civic buildings, Peters and the foundation hope to foster equal enthusiasm for trees and other greenery that soften the hard edges and make city life more comfortable.
“We see trees as a commitment to the next generation, and it’s something anyone can do to make a difference,” Peters says. “It’s a way to improve the aesthetics of the environment and the quality of the environment because trees not only beautify, but they clean the air.”
Trees are just one piece of the urban puzzle with which Peters has worked since graduating from the University of Texas in 1972. She has, in succession, worked for an Austin bank, co-owned and managed a restaurant and other businesses in Granbury’s historic downtown district, managed Hillsboro’s Main Street project, directed community relations for the Texas Historical Commission’s Main Street Project, and managed special projects such as the Arts District for the Central Dallas Association.
Along the way, Peters also completed most of the necessary course work for a master’s degree in historic preservation and donated countless volunteer hours for non-profit organizations ranging from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to the Dallas Landmark Alliance and Friends of Fair Park.
“She’s one of those people who pulled it all together at a very early age,” says Libby Willis, coordinator for the National Trust’s Texas/New Mexico field office. “She really knows what makes communities work, and she has a good eye for what will make our cities better.”
Among her Parks Foundation projects are the replacement of a blacktop parking lot near the Dallas Convention Center and Pioneer Cemetery with a park; creation of a hike-and-bike exercise trail along a 3.7-mile section of abandoned railroad right-of-way between Downtown and University Park; and installation of a garden at Old City Park in memory of Nancy Dillard.
Despite the amount of time and money required to bring the high-profile projects to fruition, Peters says the foundation won’t lose sight of its mission to help with smaller projects.
“We’re here to work with neighborhood associations, civic groups and schools,” Peters says. “We can provide technical assistance to help them analyze, organize and plan their project. We can help them identify the right type of trees and help them find the best price on the trees.”
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