Imagine lamps lining the White Rock Lake hike and bike trails, allowing residents to take strolls and exercise even when the dark of night creeps in. This is a dream of the White Rock Lake Foundation.

 

But making that dream come true costs money — roughly $4,000, in fact, for each lamp and its electrical wiring, says Jeannie Terilli, foundation president and founder.  

 

The nonprofit, all-volunteer foundation has always relied heavily on the city to pay for the major improvements outlined in the White Rock Lake master plan. The foundation holds an annual festival to raise funds, but that covers only minor projects, Terilli says.

 

The park and recreation department spent roughly $556,000 on the lake during the last fiscal year, but that was for day-to-day upkeep, not the type of projects the foundation has in mind. The department also is finishing up $9 million worth of projects voters approved in a 1995 bond election.

 

But last time Terilli checked, the master plan’s yet-to-be-completed list was in the neighborhood of $32 million, and the next bond election (tentatively proposed for 2006) will designate only $5 million to $10 million for White Rock Lake projects, she says.

 

So to make its lamp dream (and others) come true, the foundation decided to forge a new path. Taking their cues from the Friends of the Katy Trail , the 26 people who form the foundation’s board of directors and advisory board decided to change the bylaws to incorporate members.

 

“Which means that anybody and his brother can join the White Rock Lake Foundation,” says Mel Cyrak, who will chair the membership committee.

 

Cyrak presented the idea to the board of directors after he learned of the 3.5-mile Katy Trail ’s program, which has almost 650 members and an annual operating budget of $185,000.

 

“When I heard about it, I said, ‘This is for us.’ From our perspective, White Rock Lake is the jewel of Dallas,” Cyrak says, adding that, if you count the water, “it’s twice as big as Central Park .”

 

Similar to Katy Trail membership levels, annual fees for the foundation’s new membership program range from $30 for an individual to $1,000 for a “platinum friend.” Perks include a quarterly newsletter, White Rock Lake gear and special party invitations — depending on your membership level.

 

“I think enough people around White Rock Lake love it so much that they do want to help, and being a member is a good way to do that,” Terilli says.

 

The foundation’s goal is to enlist 1,000 members within a year. If that happens, it would mean $100,000 to $150,000 in revenue, which “would buy a lot of those lamps,” and “accomplish a lot of things in that master plan,” Terilli says.

 

Not to mention, Cyrak says, that adding members could get more people involved in lake activities, such as nature walks or bird watching.

 

Much of the Katy Trail ’s operating budget pays for off-duty police officers who patrol the trail on bicycle, says executive director Eric Van Steenburg. It also covers the executive director’s salary, whose job description includes helping with the $23 million capital campaign. Since the campaign’s inception in 1997, more than $16 million in both public and private donations has been raised toward that goal — and that figure doesn’t include membership fees.

 

If the White Rock Lake Foundation wants to see lighting, reforestation, shoreline enhancements or any of the other items on its multi-million dollar wish list become a reality, it needs the same sort of thrust, Cyrak says.

 

“We believe White Rock Lake needs to be preserved and enhanced,” he says, “and in order to continue improving it, we have to raise private dollars.”    

 

 

Call 214-824-6150 or visit whiterocklakefoundation.org for further details about membership.

 


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