In a recent interview for Dallas Towers, Dallas City Councilman Philip Kingston mentioned that the Trinity River should be the envy of all of Texas. And he’s absolutely right.
For a roadmap on revitalizing the Trinity River, let’s look at how Austin’s Lady Bird Lake has evolved.
Austin’s Lady Bird Lake, created by damming the Colorado River, is arguably the crown jewel of the city. It offers a gorgeous view of the skyline from Zilker Park, kayaking and canoe services on the lake, and even a dog park on an island formed by a collapsed dam.
On top of all that, there are miles of pedestrian sidewalks along the shore, and nearby hiking trails take advantage of the view, too. So, how did this become this multi-purpose natural wonder?
In 1960, the Longhorn Dam was initially constructed to be a cooling pond for a nearby power plant. But by the ‘70s the lake, then named “Town Lake,” had become a polluted, neglected mess. In response, the city formed the “Town Lake Beautification Committee” and partnered with First Lady “Lady Bird” Johnson. The committee led a long series of projects to add hiking and biking trails, plant more greenery and clean up the entire area to transform it into the attraction it is today.
OK, enough about Austin. Back to Dallas.
In Dallas, we have the Trinity River Project, which plans to develop the Trinity River’s shores into 10,000 acres of recreational space. The goal of the project is to protect from flooding, improve downtown transportation and provide all those acres of recreational space for downtown.
Upon completion, the Trinity River Project could be the largest urban park in the entire country!
While that prospect seems hugely promising, naturally there have been obstacles. The bond for the project was approved in 1998, but it took until March 2012 for the first bridge to be finished. On both the Dallas City Hall site and the official Trinity River Project site, many of the update pages lead to dead links that are supposed to show project updates.
The most recent progress update was in 2015, which was only a brief slideshow that explained who is working on the project and gives vague comments about the “opportunity” they have with the park.
And over this last year of meetings by the Trinity River committee, they’ve only met to discuss expense reports about the project and once to discuss what to do about the controversial “Dallas Wave.”
“Dallas Wave,” a simulated kayaking rapid section of the river, has drawn criticism for making navigating the Trinity highly dangerous. It was so bad that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers demanded that the city fix the area, or else they’d shut of the city’s water supply.
The most recent update to the “Trinity River Newsletter” was from February in 2015, saying that a horse park had been opened along the Trinity River.
Both of these developments represents the reason the Trinity River Project has moved forward at a glacial pace. By focusing on these hyper-specific developments that will only benefit a small group, it neglects the needs of the Dallas population as a whole.
If you’re building a house, you can’t get fixated on what kind of coffee maker you’ll buy before you make a blueprint and build a foundation. Bridges and parks are the place to start, but if the project only focuses on niche interests, it’ll never win over the people of Dallas. We can’t continue treating this project like it’s an embarrassing, doomed endeavor, with all the dead links and abandoned blogs. It needs to be finished, and it needs to be something that will make all of Dallas proud.