The Dallas Park and Recreation Department maintains all of the city’s public parks and paths, but a select few are pampered — that’s what friends are for.

Initially, Greg Furman just wanted to travel from Lakewood to White Rock Lake without using a car or having to cross a busy thoroughfare. As he began to pursue this ideal, he discovered others who shared his hopes. He learned that, in fact, some city officials had been working for years to jumpstart the Santa Fe Trail, also known as the East Dallas Veloway.

The new 12-foot-wide concrete bicycle and pedestrian path that will connect White Rock Lake to Deep Ellum, originally slated to be built starting in 2006, is finally under construction. City and Parks Department officials say the delay is related to problems coordinating with the Texas Department of Transportation, which will fund a portion of the project.

The first part of the path begins just outside Deep Ellum and stretch to Randall Park, near Glasgow and Santa Fe in Old East Dallas. Later, construction will begin on the extension from Randall Park to the southern tip of White Rock Lake’s trail, says project manager David Recht. Each phase should take about a year to complete.

Recht says the trail will be comparable to the Katy Trail, an increasingly popular 3.5-mile stretch through Uptown. And the Katy Trail receives special attention, thanks to Friends of the Katy Trail — the organization after which Furman hopes to model his foundation, Friends of the Santa Fe Trail. Furman, along with neighbor Monty Watson, are spearheading an effort to form the nonprofit group that will help fund trail and park-associated endeavors.

Furman wants the Santa Fe Trail to enjoy the kind of success he sees at the Katy Trail.  He says members of the Friends of the Katy Trail organization have mentored and guided him as he works to get Friends of Santa Fe Trail off the ground.

“So many people have worked to get the (Santa Fe Trail) project going, long before I was ever involved, and a lot of people are helping us now,” Furman says.

District 14 City Councilmember Angela Hunt says she wants to help, too.

“The Katy Trail wouldn’t look like it does today were it not for the work of Friends of the Katy Trail,” says Hunt, who has offered to assist Furman and his friends.

Recht believes “Friends” groups can augment the city’s work on the trail and parks projects.

“The Katy Trail is a great example of how the city has partnered with people in the community,” he says. “Friends groups create the opportunity for additional landscaping, water fountains, park benches. The parks department will maintain the trail, but a caring community organization can add a whole new dimension.”

Even more than creating a common area for the community to enjoy and connect, Furman believes the endeavor also is about improving air quality and giving people an opportunity to ride a bike or walk instead of driving.
Although the city faces many issues these days — density, fuel costs, environmental concerns — Furman says he believes the Santa Fe Trail, along with connecting trails throughout the city, “could be a multifaceted solution to several problems.”

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