Unless you’re satisfied with the lush AstroTurf rug on the balcony of your apartment, it’s nice to get some real live grass between your toes as a city dweller. But how far do you have to walk to find something green between the concrete and condos?
Last month, the Trust for Public Land released its 2016 ParkScore, a list of the 100 largest cities in the U.S. ranked in order of the abundance and accessibility of their public parks. Dallas ranked 54th with a score of 49 points out of a possible 100, which isn’t half bad — if you can tolerate losing to Plano, that is.
Fortunately, most of us appreciate the value of public green spaces in a city like Dallas, where an exploding urban residential market combined with frequently poor walkability requires as many parks as possible within quick pedestrian distance. The challenge of providing this accessibility as condos rise in the city’s densest urban centers demands unique developments like Klyde Warren Park, which straddles the Woodall Rogers Freeway to connect the thriving Arts District to Uptown; and Main Street Garden Park, a block of downtown green space between Commerce and Main Street salvaged from what used to be parking structures and crumbling commercial buildings.
But even with these cutting-edge designs squeezing in a few trees between high-rises, that score of 49 isn’t exactly a champagne-popping kind of number, especially since it’s gone down one point from the score of 50 assigned in 2015.
The good news is, Dallas isn’t nearly finished going green, with four urban park proposals outlined in the city Park and Recreation Department’s master plan for downtown. There’s just one problem — picking up the bill.
The last time Dallas voters approved a bond funding new city parks was in 2006, and parks built after that have relied largely on private money. Even Klyde Warren, perhaps the crown jewel of the city’s park system, wouldn’t exist without more than $50 million in cash from various corporate and private donors. This puts the future of park accessibility in Dallas in an uncertain spot, namely since the city’s dependence on outside benefactors could influence the location of upcoming developments, preventing them from being built where they’re needed most.
In any case, the fact that private money is seemingly so critical for the creation of urban green space represents a bottleneck to growth, and it’s a challenge worth addressing as Dallas continues to expand faster than ever.
After all, don’t we want to catch up with Plano?