Sometime this spring, trail users will be able to hop on a sidewalk at Gaston’s Arboretum Village shopping center, cross a White Rock Creek tributary via a new bridge, land on the Santa Fe Trail, and head either northwest to the lake or southeast to The Lot.
It’s officially called the “SoPac Gaston Avenue Connection,” though its nickname had been “the YMCA connection” because the idea to connect this strip center to the lake first arose more than six years ago when the White Rock YMCA was located roughly where Lakewood Ace Hardware now sits. Since then, however, Lincoln Property Co. bought the strip center and the Y announced a new location across Gaston Avenue.
Both Lincoln and the adjacent Edge at White Rock apartments agreed to donate portions of their parking lot and alley to public easement, so Dallas County, which is funding the $1.2 million project, extended the connection another 1,000 feet to Gaston Avenue.
“When we were looking at the project five or six years ago, just a connecting bridge over the creek to the YMCA was all we were planning to do,” says project manager Tushar Solanki. But in that scenario, the only public access would be via a private parking lot, he says. “That’s why we stretched the sidewalk all the way to Gaston,” Solanki says. “That was the most important thing to do to justify the public dollar spending.”
“It’s one of the reasons we were comfortable going to that location,” Lucas says, “because it totally takes away street crossing for people who want to access the lake from that side.”
It’s tough to say whether people south of the Arboretum Village property will realistically cross Gaston to use the trail connection; currently the only safe (and we use that word loosely) crosswalk is at West Shore. Lincoln recently commissioned traffic consultants to look at the possibility of a stoplight at Tucker, however, so a crosswalk there may be part of the city’s consideration. Lincoln also agreed to let people use its Arboretum Village parking lot to access the trail.
At a Greater East Dallas Chamber event last fall, Lincoln’s Robert Dozier called the connection “a huge attribute for our center and for the White Rock area and East Dallas area.” He envisioned not only people accessing the lake from Arboretum Village, but also customers riding their bikes and walking their dogs to the center via the trail connection.
Though the Arboretum Village connection (as we’ll now refer to it) connects directly to the Santa Fe Trail, and from there to the White Rock Lake and White Rock Creek trails, the connection is identified as part of the SoPac Trail that will run 1.8 miles along the old Union Pacific Railroad tracks between the White Rock trails near Lawther to a location near Trammel and Fisher. Construction on the SoPac is slated to begin this summer.
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