A restaurant at White Rock Lake — could it happen?

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In a decades-long series of proposals for commercial development at White Rock Lake, the latest idea involves building a restaurant on a 12-acre lot at Boy Scout Hill near Mockingbird and Buckner.

Details are scant right now — it’s not even a proposal, only the beginning of a lengthy conversation that could lead nowhere. But the DMN reports that architect Lyle Burgin and attorney Richard Kopf want to create a place where people can dine with a lakeside view. But they’ll want the White Rock Lake Task Force’s blessing, which is no easy feat.

“The idea of a destination restaurant at White Rock Lake is going to be a hard sell,” says task force chair Michael Jung.“What kind of precedent would this create? Everyone and their brother wants a view of the lake.”

As Jung has said in the past, the general attitude of the task force leans toward conservation and away from development that may upset the natural setting of the lake. This idea was met with “open-minded skepticism,” he says.

In March 2012 some casual conversations began, with much discussion here on our website, about whether commercial development could ever happen at White Rock Lake. History would show the answer is a resounding “no.”

In 1987, the Dallas Arboretum wanted to build a destination restaurant, Jung says. That was shot down. In 2006, plans floated to turn the Big Thicket building into a similar establishment. That was shot down. And who can forget the 24-story high-rise proposed on Emerald Isle?

So, what’s different about this latest idea for a restaurant at Boy Scout Hill? The location, for one.

Gerry Worrall, the city’s park board representative for the White Rock Lake area, says it’s still too early for the city to get involved, but the perception is that increased traffic may not be a huge concern as it often is with these issues. The area has easy access points straight from the already busy thoroughfares of Mockingbird and Buckner, so neighborhood streets wouldn’t see much impact.

“This is probably the one location at the lake where [the issue of traffic] would not be as relevant,” Worrall says.

Will that be enough to sway the public attitude against development at White Rock Lake? Tell us what you think by voting in our poll or leave a comment below:

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  • Nick Mirro

    No need to bother with facts and logic. They don’t matter around here. You live in a bright red state. There’s a reason Texas politicians don’t generally run anti-corruption election campaigns.

  • Julie
  • Julie

    Consider this: Is our city lacking in places to eat and drink – is there any place in the city where good food (and drink) are more than a few blocks away?

    Consider this: Does our city have many places for families and children to enjoy free healthy activities in a safe beautiful spot on the shores of a lake with abundant wildlife and nothing required to participate?

    Do Dallas citizens deserve safe family and community centered alcohol free places to do healthy things together?

    Are there opportunities to use private commercial property surrounding the lake outside the park where developers could put restaurants? Yes! And some close enough that patrons could walk a few blocks to the lake for a stroll after supporting the business – just like Austin, Chicago, New York.

  • Kathleen Lynch

    Contact the Dallas City Parks and Recreation Department with any questions/comments and/or concerns. Link: http://www.ci.dallas.tx.us/forms/form_pkr.htm

  • Nick Mirro

    Yikes, this sounds awful. I kayak up whiterock creek all the time. Everyone else that I encounter there loves it for the breathtaking solitude. Think that would be the end of that. White Rock lake is a bird sanctuary, with gorgeous waterways feeding it from the north. Elevation of Northwest Hwy just opened a natural artery for wildlife and kayakers. Naturalists, kayakers and kingfishers all just arrived. Uh ho! Time to turn around!

    I’ll bet the restaurant developer is actually against the project. “The city is pressuring us to do this against our will! Sorry!!!” kidding…

  • Kathleen Lynch

    There will be so much development that one will soon have to pay to park at the lake. I agree Larry, development will not stop at one restaurant.

  • Larry Spann

    Seems like everyone in favor of this plan says “no one suggests turning the lake into a big commercial development”. But guess what, as soon as you open the door to one – they will all follow. Think the city can put in regulations to prevent it? Guess again. The city will face countless charges of favoritism if they let one in and then deny anyone else the right to build along the shores of the lake. Imagine the lawsuits we taxpayers will be paying for! You might have a nice restaurant now where you can meet, eat and view the lake, but give it 10 years – you won’t be able to see the lake anymore.

  • Larry Spann

    Brian, you obviously have never been to the lake! People fighting for no development around the lake are doing it precisely so that it retains it appeal to EVERYONE – especially the “commoners” as you like to call them. Go to the lake on any nice weekend and you will find every picnic table being used, a large percentage by your “commoners”. You will find picnics spread out on blankets on the ground – again lots of your “commoners”. You will find members of every race and economic group walking their dogs, fishing, cycling, strolling with their families, and just enjoying nature in one of the best city parks anywhere.. Everyone in Dallas comes together there in harmony. As soon as you start the upscale development, you advocate, you will make your “commoners” feel less welcome, and they will soon stop coming. You are the one who sounds like a racist!

    Actually, everyone will soon stop using it, because once you let in one developer, you will never be able to stop others from coming in. When the first one gains a foothold, it will not be long before the entire shore of the lake is covered by commercial development. Then the only people coming to the lake will be customers, and we will have lost one of the greatest city parks in the country.

  • TexasSecular

    Brian, you must be a troll. The Lake is one of the few undeveloped
    areas in the city – there is plenty of room for development elsewhere.
    The charge of racism is ignorant because plenty of people of all races
    use the park now. Your argument that other places develop their lake
    borders is an invalid argument – you must have missed learning about
    logical fallacies in school.

  • Kathleen Lynch

    Consider these bird watching facts at Boy Scout Hill…I’m sharing a link to JR Compton’s Bird Watcher’s map of White Rock Lake…now that we are aware of the controversy regarding a restaurant at Boy Scout Hill, take note that on this map, it is called Mockingbird Hill…also take note of the bird sightings that are listed there. By the way, great job JR! http://www.jrcompton.com/photos/The_Birds/J/WhiteRockMap.html

  • Grumpy

    I’m pretty sure there’s a restaurant in the Bass Pro Shops on Lake Ray Hubbard – there’s your lake view dining experience. And water skiing, too.

  • Grumpy

    There are plenty of picnic tables overlooking the lake. There’s plenty of restaurants and high density housing in other parts of town. If you want to eat overlooking a lake, I think there’s a Chili’s or McDonald’s in Rockwall – knock yourself out.

  • Kathleen Lynch

    I agree!

  • Kathleen Lynch

    I don’t do those things, either, Brian, but I can walk/drive there. Once there, I have eyes that see and enjoy the endless colors and the glorious beauty of the lake, sky, sunset, trees, grass, etc. I have ears that can hear the birds and the splashing water. I have hands that can feel the leaves and bark. There are endless ways to enjoy the lake without going to a restaurant. If your disability does not keep you from eating at a restaurant, Brian, then you can also make it to a picnic table. Stop whining…the environmentalist, the purist and the aristocrats, and your disability are not keeping you from enjoying the lake…YOU are keeping yourself from enjoying the lake. I don’t think we should sacrifice 12 acres of natural habitat to build a restaurant and parking lot – that is not what I want to look at when I’m at the lake. Restaurants are “a dime a dozen”…WRL, as it is now. is priceless!

  • Brian

    Longtime Dallasite I was born and raised here. It’s silly to think that an area of development, say, 1/8 of a mile of the almost 10 miles around the lake, would destroy the native plants and animals. This is the kind of crazy environmental worship crud that drives me nuts. Lets be reasonable.

  • Brian

    Kathleen, I wish could exercise, but I can’t. I have a disability that prohibits that. Is it so foreign to you that people want to enjoy the lake for something else other than exercise and sailing? I enjoy having a good meal with friends and family and it would be great if we could do that enjoying the lake. No one’s asking for the lake to be taken over by development. Why is it so bad for those of us who don’t or can’t share your interest to be able to enjoy the lake?

  • Kathleen Lynch

    Brian,So your reasoning for a restaurant at WRL is basically this…since you don’t bike, run, jog, sail, etc. we need a restaurant at the lake so you can do what you seem to do best – sit and eat? Really?????

  • Longtime Dallasite

    Brian, you must be new to Dallas, and certainly don’t understand the delicate natural balance of native plants and animals existing at WRL that will be forever lost, with more development.

  • Longtime Dallasite

    LEAVE WHITE ROCK LAKE AND THE PARK LAND ALONE! Boy Scout Hill is one of the few elevated parcels of park land at White Rock Lake to fly a kite, have a blanket style picnic, watch the sunset, and experience the sense of openness, overlooking the lake. The Dallas Arboretum’s example of wildlife destruction is more than enough to deal with, and not sure we will ever recover from that debacle. The serenity the DABS has destroyed with their overbuilding of concrete structures and parking lots should be the lesson learned on what NOT to do, in the eyes of “progress” and serving the community. WRL and surrounding park land is greatly needed for the increasing demands of the expanding population. Building more structures will simply add to the loss of self-sustaining ecosystems and wildlife sanctuaries existing in a fine balance there. Once an open space is gone, it’s too late. White Rock Lake will lose, lose, lose, the beauty and natural habitats it supports.

  • Los_Politico

    Dude, it hasn’t been private land in over 100 years. There was never private land next to the lake because there was no lake!

    There is a ton of private land bordering the park, much of it is even zoned for commercial activity. Someone could buy Lake View Liquors and build a really nice place to sell burgers.

    And yes, I think it would be unreasonable to lease land like the proposal suggests. There is actually not very much parkland around the lake. The few spots that I would support (a rebuilt Dryfus, for example) would likely only get done if the city agreed to build and maintain additional parking, which I would be against.

    I’ve thought about these things. I’ve been to Tavern on the Green, the Brooklyn Bridge Wine Bar, etc. I’m not against someone making money, I’m against paving over any more of the park.

  • Dan Zater

    Great! Welcome to my plan. 😉 And, well, there are plenty of other parks where you can commune with nature. No need to force everyone to use the Lake just in the ways that you think best. My plan wouldn’t prohibit you from using the Lake in the ways you mentioned, it just allows more people to enjoy the lake that might want to enjoy it in a different way than your way. Embrace diversity of opinion mdmost, and embrace diversity of lake use.

  • mdmost

    Oh well then sign me up for your plan. Your strategy has won me over.

    There’s plenty to do at the lake for everyone as it stands right now. No one is prohibited from going to the lake except after the park closes. I don’t think we should tear up, lease or give any part of the lake to a private developer to test a restaurant on. Sometimes a lake should just be a place to appreciate nature. I’m sorry that notion offends you. There are plenty of restaurants around White Rock Lake that you can enjoy if you wish to.

  • Brian

    I wasn’t necessarily referring to you, Los Politico. I like green space too and am not saying we should get rid of it all. But the people who keep fighting for *no* development around the lake are environmental extremest/purist and/or, I wish this wasn’t so, but some of them are probably racist who don’t want the Mexican’s invading “their” lake and so don’t want the lake to have any appeal to “commoners.”

    I agree with you that it would be better for it to be on private land, however, the government has taken the land where the lake is, which used to be private. Any available land around the lake is public. So the question is whether you’d like to sell off some of the land around the lake or just lease it so the city still has control over it. A lot of lakes lease the land bordering them. Why would it be unreasonable to lease out some of the land around the lake? You could add a big development and 90% of the lake would be unaffected.

  • Dan Zater

    Hysterics? No, just demonstrating the absurdity of your argument by being absurd. Obviously you didn’t understand, as your stated the same absurd argument again, that we don’t need restaurants because we can all just eat at picnic tables.

  • mdmost

    I love people who resort to hysterics when their point of view is challenged. Excellent debating strategy. The city has accommodated people who want to meet, eat and view the lake. There are multiple picnic tables, park benches and pavilions that you can meet, eat and view the lake from. Sorry that I’m not in favor of tearing up park land and nature so you can have a restaurant to go eat at to give you nice views of the lake.

  • Los_Politico

    I’m an “extreme environmentalist” because I enjoy green space? How is White Rock excluding anyone as it is? You can’t feed the ducks or whatever? And while I am all for improvements to the lake, how would doing nothing “ruin” it?

    I’d love to see higher density development, walkable retail, etc, too. But I’d like for it to be done by the free market on privately owned land. Since when are you crazy right wingers in favor of cronyism and government subsidies? Is that the Leppert Legacy?

  • Dan Zater

    You’re right, we should just ban restaurants all together, after all, who needs a restaurant when you can picnic anywhere you want? Those restaurants are just clogging up traffic, using land we could plant bluebonnets on. Of course, today I can’t fly a kite, enjoy a picnic, or take a walk unless I’m a fan of freezebite. Why couldn’t *you guys* just leave the lake the way it was? That is, before everything was prohibited. According to your logic we should just tear everything down and go back to living in Teepees and shooting Buffalo with our bow and arrow.

    Listen, I know you don’t want the Lake turned into some big commercial development, but no ones suggesting that. I like walking around the lake and taking a picnic every once in a while, but it’s not something that I have the time or ability to do when the weather prevents (rain, heat, cold, wind).

    The City needs to accommodate the joggers, cyclist, and photographers and the rest of us who just want an environment where we can meet,eat, and view the lake.

  • mdmost

    Ever heard of a picnic table? There are multiple places where you can dine on park land. You just have to bring your own dinner. To the other person who said they want to enjoy the lake without sailing, biking or jogging, nothing is stopping you from parking at the lake and walking around. You can also fly a kite, bring a picnic lunch, bring your camera and take pictures of nature. The lake is just fine as it is and doesn’t need a bunch of restaurants and developments to make it better.

  • Dan Zater

    I think the lake should be opened up to water skiing and the retail/housing type of development you were talking about. The east side of the lake close to Buckner would be ideal because of the streets ability to handle more traffic. Why are we letting some committee of people who have a vested interest in not letting development happen at the lake (like people who live right there) ruin it for everyone? This isn’t a private lake it’s a public lake.

  • Dan Zater

    I’d like to dine ON park land, you know, the land that’s supposed to be for us? Give the developer a 99 year lease. I’m not saying that we should open all the park land to development but the only reason it’s “park land” is because we’ve designated it as such. We can undesignate it or keep control of it and allow limited development.

  • Brian

    Once again the extreme environmentalist are attempting to ruin White Rock for the rest of us. The lake is for the people, the people are not for the lake. Open up White Rock for at least limited development so those of us who don’t sail, bike, or jog can enjoy the lake as well. I’d love to see a high density housing, retail and restaurant development on the lake. In it’s early days White Rock Lake used to be a lake of the people. People went boating, there was a dinner boat that went out, and many of the small homes around the lake were built for people that wanted a second home by the lake. Now the environmental purist and aristocrats have taken over with the intent of keeping the undesirables out.

  • Los_Politico

    I’d like to dine by the Lake, but not on park land. These guys should buy the gas station and/or storage units on Winsted and develop their destination restaurant. The views of the Spillway would be great.

  • Carol Bell-Walton

    Another developer after White Rock Lake Park land? #bigsurprise The ironic thing about this article is the developer talks about the restaurants in Austin where there are lake views. I’ll point out the obvious here. Those restaurants are not in Austin public parks. In Austin, if a developer had the idea for a restaurant in Zilker Park, they wouldn’t even get a meeting with the parks department. Once again, I’ll raise the cause to please, please, please do not bring liquor into White Rock Lake Park for the promise of improved infrastructure. The area’s highest and best uses? Fishing, sailing, rowing, hiking, biking, flying kites, spotting wildlife, enjoying nature, studying botany, performing community service, playing with your family, and on and on. There is a ban on liquor in White Rock Lake Park for many reasons, all based on experience with liquor being legal at the park. That’s right. It was legal. The park declined with decay and crime. Liquor was banned. Now White Rock Lake Park flourishes with increased attendance every year. We’re not for denying Velvet Taco guy his vision to make millions in Dallas, it is just grossly inappropriate to expect to use parkland to do it. Museum Tower guy being involved absolutely inspires terror in me personally. Sheffie’s claim that no one mentioned it to him in the last year is most disconcerting. Is Sheffie on a “need to know basis” with his park’s rep? Was he told and he forgot? The developers have been working on privatizing part of the biggest park in Dallas, which happens to be in District 9 – Sheffie’s district, and he doesn’t know? Why do I feel like I have no representation at City Hall? Even if you like to drink and look at water, please consider the safety of other park users at White Rock Lake, one of Dallas’ most highly used parks. Once green space is lost, it is never replaced. I don’t look at White Rock Lake and want to see Lake Rockwall. It’s the 80-20 rule. 80% of us look at White Rock and enjoy the nature conservation. 20% look at it as a way to make money. Now 80% of the 20% never act on their aspirations, but 20% come forward with self-serving, wildlife destroying, safety endangering projects that us “lake people” have to oppose. I’m not trying to keep the lake for myself. I am trying to keep it safe for the users and liquor just doesn’t fit into the equation. Get a water chaser if drinking and looking at water is that important to you.

  • muddy slop hole

    Like Winfrey Point, the 12 acre footprint area of their restaurant focus is a prolific rare and endangered Black Land Prairie wildflower area with a very heavy concentration (and perhaps the only) bluebonnets around White Rock Lake and in addition harbors wildlife. Why not come up with a program that addresses the entire east side of the lake (Winfrey Point, Dreyfuss Club, Pelican Bay, Bath House, Big Thicket Cabin etc.) that follows the guidelines set out in the White Rock Lake Master Plan which basically says “no development at the expense of greenfield,” Kudos to Willis Winters for his effort at transparency. Gerry Worrell isn’t worth quoting and needs to resign as park board representative after his less than transparent misstep handling of the Winfrey Point/Arboretum debacle.

  • Ted Barker

    Three of the Winfrey Point “rowdies” met with Mr. Burgin and Mr. Kopf in November at the request of a prominent Task Force member. We all promised to consider the project and a two hour conversation ensued.
    We encouraged conversation with the planners at City Hall who oversee the hike/bike upgrade which should be rolling out shortly. We also directed the gentlemen to the White Rock Lake Task Force.
    Frankly, those of us who have been vocal about projects getting run through without public comment, appreciate the early conversation and the fact that Willis Winters directed the two men to the community.
    Both men have ideas about helping the park apart from the restaurant. I would like to expand their understanding to see if more private sector funds can be found to return the sheen to our “gem” of the City.