White Rock East neighbors rally to preserve White Rock Lake’s ‘Blackland Prairies’

A man rides a horse across Boy Scout Hill where developers are interested in building a restaurant: by Danny Flugencio

A group of neighbors from the White Rock area have formed the White Rock East Coalition of Area Neighbors. It comprises Old Lake Highlands, Lochwood and, Peninsula neighborhood associations and the main purpose, according to representative Leigh Ann Ellis is “€œto build a stronger sense of community by, collectively, addressing quality-of-life issues that affect our neighborhoods.”

Based on a letter to Dallas City Hall (on which we were CC’d), the group’s chief concern at the moment is the prospect of a restaurant at White Rock Lake.

“We feel strongly that is an inappropriate use of public park land and we cannot support this kind of disruptive commercial development on the east side of White Rock Lake,” notes the coalition.

“Together we should take this as an opportunity to establish a review of the of 1987 Management Plan for White Rock Lake, strengthen its original mission, and ensure the ecosystems of the native Blackland Prairies remain intact. These sacred grasslands, on the east side of the Lake, are just a handful of the priceless Blackland Prairies in Dallas County. And for us as good stewards of the Lake, we must ensure that respect, preservation, and maintenance are acknowledged as being valued and important for these irreplaceable areas,” they continue.

The sacredness of the prairies have been debated in the past, namely by Dallas Arboretum representatives who wanted to use the Winfrey Point prairies as a parking lot, and their hired experts who call “Blackland Prairies” a hot-button phrase to get people all worked up. “There are 12 million acres of Blackland Prairie in North Texas,” the Arboretum-hired expert said.

Nonetheless, you get the idea. People are organizing to oppose any commercial development, even that which is in infancy. 

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  • TexanaJan

    Please please keep White Rock Wild!!

  • Scott

    What is with the endless greed and woefully opportunistic mindset of this city? When will we put a moratorium on the exploitation of our remaining public parklands? When does the prospective exploration nonsense stop? In order to continue to have a quiet, peaceful, and serene White Rock Lake Park, will we have to keep on fighting this fight into eternity? What is wrong with the lake like it is? Why does progress always have to mean more development / density? Why can’t we just have open land in its (almost) natural state?

  • Barbara C

    As quickly as even quality restaurants come and go in Dallas, I think putting a restaurant there or anywhere on park land is a mistake. While every one for it likely envisions something cool, it could end up being abandoned or a fast food place in 10 years, couldn’t it?
    Those of us who have used the lake since the 60’s recall the mess caused when people were allowed to drive all the way around it (beer cans in every yard). It has taken hard work to keep the lake up, natural and recreational. It’s not Lake Michigan or Travis or even close to the scale needed to allow commercial development.
    Thank you for providing a forum for commentary.

  • Wilson!

    You have pictures from “before man” ? This I gotta see…

  • I guess my answer to that would be that there is no parking lot on Winfrey Point today; that is testimony to the system working. And since people are now more vigilant because of what happened there, I can guarantee you there will not be a restaurant on the White Rock Lake land without everyone having plenty of chances to be heard.

  • CBD

    Ordinarily, I would agree with you, but the Dallas Arboretum showed us with their parking fiasco that these things can be much more mature and far along then the public is lead to believe when they are relieved to us.

  • Nancy, the process to approve and construct a restaurant or any commercial structure in that spot or any other on public land surrounding the lake involves numerous public hearings, as well as public votes by the Planning Commission and the City Council. Whatever happens or does not happen there is not going to be a surprise to anyone, because we and others will be reporting on it, and there will be plenty of time and opportunities for input. I think Christina’s point is that other than the idea of a restaurant on that spot, no one — and I mean no one — has any precise idea what may (or may not) be proposed, so it’s pretty difficult to honestly and fairly evaluate a plan or be “for” or “against” something that doesn’t exist in the public domain yet.

  • Nancy Ferro

    I agree with Ted and am concerned about Ms. Babb’s last statement in this article. “Nonetheless, you get the idea. People are organizing to oppose any commercial development, even that which is in infancy.”
    Would she have us wait until it is full blown? I wouldn’t be surprised if it already is a done deal in the eyes of some, that is the frightening part of behind the scenes politics.
    One of the developers stated that people needed a place to enjoy the lake, don’t know where he has been for the last 60 years. I believe the restaurant was an offshoot of the new boat/ rowing area because they could not have liquor. I do hope even if, behind the scenes they already have the go ahead from the political machine that runs this city, we can push back to the right place, one of integrity to the land.

  • Ted Barker

    Folks may wonder why I have not posted a comment on the restaurant after having been so vocal with Winfrey Point exploitation. I wanted to see how the people who use the lake would react. Yes, I met with the two developers in November and strongly suggested that they go before the WRL Task Force and the neighborhood groups.
    This is not a NIMBY issue, it is an issue of how to use and manage public green space,
    Reduction of green spaces is not desirable and especially where so much effort has been undertaken to “raise up” the eco-system that has been sitting here all along. This was prairie dating to pre-historic times. The geological and historical profile has been fully examined by a combination of lay and degreed scientists, all enthusiasts.
    Matt White is a key reference, one among many.

  • Marshal Reinhart

    I got pictures!

  • Wilson!

    You’d be 100% wrong, too.

  • Wilson!

    Comparing Lake Travis to White Rock Lake? That’s a new one…

    Lake Travis is a rural lake, at least a 15 mile drive from downtown Austin. WRL is not. Lake Travis (when it has water in it) is huge. WRL is not. Lake Travis is abutted by both private and public property. WRL is not. The Oasis is built on private property.

    If someone wants to build a restaurant on private property with a lake overview, there are plenty of places within 15-20 miles of downtown Dallas that would fit that bill, like Lake Ray Hubbard. If someone wants to build a lake on public property at WRL, they need the permission of the owners, and I for one say NO.

  • Colin Carroll

    I don’t understand why a proposed restaurant at our man-made lake is such a horrible idea. Austin is the be all end all of livable cities and The Oasis on their man-made Lake Travis is very popular.

  • Susan Stevenson

    Marshall–you are 100% wrong. Only the bottomlands adjoining streams were forested in the native state of the eco-region. Please read:
    Matt, 2006: Prairie Time a Blackland Portrait, College Station, TX,
    Texas A& M University Press, 251 pp.

  • Kathleen Lynch

    Marshal, check out this link…it tells the history of the lake area before it was a lake. I think you will find it to be very informative: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thbI18PtqTU&feature=share

  • Marshal Reinhart

    I am 100% sure that before man, the entire lake area was forested. Man started clearing the fertile land in the 1850s around here, so you wont see a picture of what this area originally looked like. It was not a prairie however

  • Chuck Kobdish

    The importance of an engaged community cannot be overstated!