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Neighborhood associations team with the city to repair park facilities

After going 30 years without a facelift, Alan and Eva Trotter thought the White Rock Lake Park tennis court in the Peninsula Neighborhood needed major work.

But when their neighborhood association contacted the Dallas Park and Recreation Department about refurbishing the court, they heard a familiar answer from cash-strapped city officials: “Wait for the next bond package.”

“It’s kind of funny,” association member Kurt Kretsinger says, “because you know then it will probably never get done. … When you hear bond election, it’s the kiss of death.”

But instead of dropping it, or waiting or complaining, neighbors decided to persuade the city with their commitment to the project — and cash.

“So many people feel frustrated, like they can’t get anything done,” Kretsinger says. “This is a way they can do something. The city is always open to a partnership.”

With a list of needed city-wide park repairs and improvements totaling $1.8 billion, partnerships between the city and civic groups have become a way to fast-track projects that otherwise might lay dormant for years, says park department assistant director Willis Winters.

“We’re doing a lot of that around the city right now,” he says. “That’s the only way we’ll be able to restore the Dallas park system to its former glory of the 1980s.”

The association brought out three contactors for estimates on resurfacing the court, then quickly collected half the required cash — $2,500. They proposed a 50-50 deal with the city.

The park department agreed and put the project out for bid in May. Any additional money raised by the association — around $800 so far — will pay for landscaping around the court. Kretsinger expects the resurfacing to be complete by July.

Cindy Bourne says the Casa Linda Estates Neighborhood Association experienced similar success working in partnership with the city. Park department crews installed picnic benches and soon will install a new basketball goal, all purchased with the association’s money.

The city and the association also entered a 50-50 agreement to renovate traffic triangles in the neighborhood, Bourne says.

“We can’t depend on the city to do everything. There’s simply not money; we know that,” she says. “We have to be resourceful, come up with money ourselves.”

Casa Linda Estates has partnered with Little Forest Hills, which both border Casa Linda Park, to gain non-profit status for a joint committee benefiting the park.

The city plans to rebuild the park pavilion, Bourne says, and is considering projects for a 2006 bond proposal. Whatever the city won’t do, the committee will tackle, she says.

“If the city already has plans to do it and thinks they have the money for it, that’s not where you want your fund-raising dollars to go,” she says.

Bourne says the key to a successful partnership with the city is showing a willingness to work.

Kretsinger agrees.

“It’s really a proactive approach,” he says. “You just have to approach them.”


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