If you believe Tammy Adams, her gumbo and crawfish étouffée has magical powers. It makes people who once bitterly hated and actively campaigned against plans to build a fancy new boathouse on White Rock Lake into dogged supporters of the project. It has the power to morph snobby Park Cities’ kids into relatable neighborhood youth. Based on her description, these dishes could all but part the Red Sea.
“It’s my secret weapon,” she says through her ever-widening smile.
Others say it’s Adams, not her seafood plates, that has made all the difference. Since she came on board as president of Dallas United Crew in January, she has built a new boathouse proposal, raised the bulk of the funding needed and, perhaps most impressively, changed the tune of most of the neighbors who opposed the project.
“It sounds too good to be true, but it is, more or less, true,” says Michael Jung, the White Rock Neighborhood Association president who sits on both the White Rock Lake Task Force and the Dallas Plan Commission.
Jung was an active voice against DUC’s initial proposal, which called for a 9,000-square-foot, $4 million boathouse that many thought was too much for the lake. Beyond the design, many neighbors were discontent with what seemed liked the privatization of our neighborhood’s most iconic element. Founded by Park Cities residents, DUC has had a reputation here for bringing “outsiders” to the lake, and many felt the boathouse was DUC’s attempt to colonize a little piece of our watery heaven.
“[The lake] is loved by many, many people, and if you want to do something on it, you have to get the neighbors on board,” says Becky Rader, a member of the Park Board who is involved in many lake organizations and opposed the original DUC proposal.
Despite opposition, in 2012 the City Council approved the expansive glass-encased project, providing DUC could raise the needed $4 million in three years. The group fell more than short, raising just $230,000, so their contract quietly died in December 2015.
That’s when Adams stepped in. Unlike the former leadership, Adams is an East Dallas mom who says she’s all about building community. Her son, a junior at Dallas ISD’s Science and Engineering Magnet School, is a captain of the crew team, and she saw firsthand the needs of the team.
Every winter, the dock becomes submerged, making it impossible to launch boats. There were no bathrooms nearby (a problem Adams has fixed with the installation of a port-o-potty a few months ago). Without a boathouse, the team stores its equipment on the banks of the lake, where it is easily vandalized.
“Recently, they made off with our foot pedals. What are you going to do with those?” Adams asks. “But those things are expensive.”
Adams made it her mission to mend fences and show the White Rock community what DUC is all about. Adams says it’s not, as perceived, all Highland Park kids rolling up in Range Rovers — 64 percent of the 100 or so DUC rowers are Dallas ISD students, and Jesuit and SMU both also maintain their own teams under DUC’s umbrella. The nonprofit also has set up adaptive rowing for disabled veterans and boats for breast cancer survivors.
Armed with her signature gumbo, Adams set out to win over hearts and stomachs.
“She talked to as many people as she could,” Jung says, adding that her transparency was a welcome change. “People trust them more now then they once did.”
Adams also helped the community get to know the rowers. The youth took on cleanup projects at the lake and made presentations to neighborhood groups about what rowing means to them. Adams says DUC reached out to Bryan Adams High School to offer five scholarships to cover the $1,900 per semester cost of taking part in crew, fees that largely go to professional coaching and travel costs. They hope to have an entire eight-person team of Bryan Adams students soon — all on scholarship.
“Crew is really good for kids, and not just as exercise,” Adams says, adding that 55 percent of female rowers and 18 percent of male rowers go on to receive college scholarships.
But the need remained for a boathouse. So Adams turned to DUC’s biggest critics to help her come up with a plan that would meet the needs of the team and the community.
“It can’t just be a private thing. It needs to be for the community,” Adams says.
Working with Jung and Rader, along with other opponents like Ted and Hal Barker, they devised a simple 18-foot tall, 8,300-square-foot structure with a metal roof that follows the design of the nearby Corinthian Sailing Club. The dock would be raised just enough to keep it from going under during the winter months.
“The dock will remain public where many people launch their kayaks and boats from,” Adam says. “Our favorite patron is the chocolate lab, that tirelessly retrieves his red Frisbee off our dock on almost a daily basis.”
Only the locked pavilion where the equipment is kept would be private. The new plan would cost between $300,000-$350,000, Adams says, of which she has already raised $200,000.
“I hope to raise the rest of the money by the end of the year,” Adams says.
She still faces an uphill battle. DUC needs approval from the Parks Board and City Council before the dream becomes a reality. White Rock Lake Councilman Mark Clayton says he was skeptical of the original DUC proposal (approved by Council prior to his election), and is not yet willing to offer support for the new effort.
“It’s not really a proposal … it’s not even close,” he says. “I told [Adams] the only way I’d even consider it is if it’s a true public boathouse that they rent space at.”
But Adams has cleared perhaps the trickiest hurdle in transforming DUC’s biggest opponents into enthusiasts.
“This is the real deal. It really is a different project,” Jung says.
“It just looks so much better,” Rader echoed. “It shows what can happen at the lake when it’s done the right way.”
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