Correction (12/1): This story has been updated with information about the redesign of the golf courses at Samuell-Grand Park.
It was a case of “who you know.” In 2016, Joseph Pitchford asked Philip Hiatt Haigh to work with the Circuit Trail Conservancy. They met each other through positions at Dallas County. Earlier, Pitchford had been appointed to serve on a board by Judge Clay Jenkins, Hiatt Haigh’s boss. Pitchford’s request was for Hiatt Haigh to meet with the rest of the CTC Board of Trustees to brainstorm how to implement the organization’s vision: The Loop.
The trustees had already identified the four missing links: the locations around Dallas where 11 miles of new trails would connect 39 miles of existing trails, forming a walkable, bikeable, 50-mile loop.
At first, Hiatt Haigh was there to help the CTC find sources of funding.
“The old ‘a million dollars a mile,’ that was the old formula,” he says. “Now it’s much, much higher.”
They knew a City of Dallas bond issuance was coming soon and that they would also need to raise private funds.
Dallas County had already approved $5 million. The Texas Department of Transportation contributed $8 million. Another $20 million came in the 2017 bond program, and $10 million was raised from private donors. That added up to $43 million in initial funding to get the project started.
Then in 2018, Hiatt Haigh joined the CTC full-time as the executive director. Given his past experience, he was prepared to secure approvals required for a project involving three public entities: the City, Dallas County and TxDOT.
The Loop, which the City will eventually own and maintain, won’t just fill the gaps in the Dallas trail network. Hiatt Haigh says it will “change the perception of Dallas” into a connected city where communities aren’t divided by the built environment. The same amenities available to residents in Uptown and near White Rock Lake will be available to residents in Pleasant Grove and Joppa.
“That’s a huge statement for what Dallas is investing in and what they think about their people — to say, ‘you are as important as all these other people, and we’re going to invest in the same amenity across the entire way.’ And it’s going to create this green identity,” he says.
The Loop could also be good for business. In certain places along the trail, especially south of I-30, land is zoned for industrial use. Hiatt Haigh has been meeting with City staff to discuss how the zoning might be amended to make those spaces more desirable for retail, restaurant or residential development.