In 1969, Dallas’ trail system was an embryonic patchwork of city-owned land scattered around town and imaginarily linked by proposed acquisitions. Park Director L.B. Houston had been “talking up his green belt concept for years,” according to a 1969 Dallas Morning News article, and it was finally “beginning to materialize,” he told reporters. Houston’s dream was “to interconnect park property, to give people who spend most of their time boxed in by steel and concrete an opportunity for long hikes, bicycle and horse trail rides and nature enjoyment.”
“Let’s not be small about this,” Houston urged; he visualized a 40-mile main belt encircling Dallas, and, short “spur” paths included, he said, the green belt project could incorporate 60-70 miles of public park.
TRAILS FOR ALL: Longtime Park and Recreation staffer Peter Bratt, who oversees city trail and park planning, says his department wants to ensure that every Dallasite has a park or trail within a half mile of home.
In 2016, 149 miles of a trail network has taken shape across the whole of Dallas — some of the paths are smooth and straight, ideal for swift cyclists or longboarders, others are better worn, muddied and pocked from flooding or popular with pokey pedestrians and children. Sections submerse power lines or busy overpasses where travelers may observe nesting parakeets or artful murals. And 37 supplemental miles are funded and under development, Dallas Park and Recreation Department staffers say. Still, city planners face challenges when it comes to joining fragments of trail and funding those connections. The gaps in connectivity “have been bothering” Councilman Adam McGough and like-minded leaders, he says. “This is the season of trying to connect.” Today’s dream is for some 300 miles to link all reaches of our city, not to mention adjoining exciting trail systems in municipalities such as Richardson and Irving, says Park department project manager Peter Bratt. Despite some tribulations, no one can accuse today’s trail visionaries of thinking small.
L.B. Houston would have been proud.
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