Elisabeth’s comment in the previous post gets at the heart of the White Rock discussion, namely differing visions of the lake and it’s future.

There are different kinds of parks and the question is what kind do we see for White Rock. To some, a park looks like their back yard, only bigger. The grass is neatly trimmed, there are swings and slides and things for the kids to play on, a paved area or shelter for gatherings, maybe a place to cook out, basketball courts, ball diamonds, soccer fields, swimming pools or tennis courts. This is the way my neighborhood park looks and that’s great. It’s especially beautiful about dawn, the time I typically use it. This type of maintained, manicured treatment also happens to be the way all trail-related development in this area is handled, at least for a sizeable distance on either side of the trail.

Another kind of park is more rustic. Native plants and grasses are allowed to grow to their natural state. In this kind of environment, wildlife of all kinds are more likely to flourish. To view some of these areas, it is necessary to use small, unpaved paths. It’s a natural beauty more typical to rural parks or state parks.

White Rock started off as this second kind of park and maintains significant natural areas. Although constructed to serve the City with water, it was located in a remote (at the time), rural environment and developed it’s own extensive ecosystem. The city has grown up around it and encroached upon that system. The extent and the complexity of that ecosystem are some of the features that make it so attractive. There are and have been significant natural areas and some not-so-natural areas that provide a foil to and a refuge from the surrounding urban sprawl.

I lived in Austin for awhile and know that Town Lake (now Lady Bird Lake) has evolved in a way opposite of White Rock. The surrounding city was well established when Longhorn Dam was constructed in the late 1950’s, creating the lake we see today essentially within downtown Austin. Not until the mid 1980’s, after inappropriate lakefront development stirred the citizens to action, were steps taken to protect what remained of the natural environment and expand the park land. In short, they are working to create something at Lady Bird Lake that we already have at White Rock.

I personally prefer the natural environments at White Rock and think they provide our City with an especially beautiful and unique urban oasis. To have and maintain such a park requires a careful balance between potentially conflicting interests. It is not reasonable to expect it to be all of any one thing. It needs playground and natural areas, paved trails and dirt paths.

My concern is that we have lost that balance and are in danger of over developing the lake. Trails have grown much wider over the years and now extend into and change far more of the natural areas than they did. The recent trail construction at Mockingbird Point is a good example as it not only wiped out a large portion of a natural area, it also completely separated the remaining natural area from lake frontage, the only remaining such area I know of south of Mockingbird. Bridges are far more common and some trails on the west side actually extend over the top of the shoreline. It is in this same spirit that I was concerned about the lighting proposal. Such a measure might make the lake more accessible to some, but at a cost to the natural environment and some of the exact qualities that make the park attractive to everyone in the first place.

I believe the park should be available for the enjoyment of every single citizen of Dallas, just not all at the same time. And maybe not at all hours. Easy access 24/7 describes a 7-Eleven, not a park. Every year we trade natural features for man-made in the name of making it easier for people to enjoy the park. At some point, however, we have to decide that we’ve done all that we can without losing what we love. I’m not opposed to change per se, but to change that continues to urbanize the park. We’ve gone too far already.

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