On the Trail of a Greener City, Hope Lives

Categories: Schutze

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Years ago. How many? I don't know. When was the time before the time we started fighting about the Trinity River toll road? Was there such a time? I first talked to City Council member Angela Hunt about the Trinity River before the Trinity River was a brawl.

So it had to be 2005. She had just been elected to the council. She was 33 years old, pre-kids, brand-new to politics. I forget the context. She went off on this little reverie, the kind of naïve pie-in-the-sky stuff that normally makes an old reporter think, "Oh, wow, this one's really green." She even looked green, like you could pick her up off the shelf at the doll shop and make her eyes pop open and closed.

I can't quote. But I remember the gist. She said she had this vision of life in a Dallas of the future where you could live in downtown or uptown or East Dallas or North Oak Cliff, wake up on a fine Saturday morning, take your bike down the elevator or out the back door and hit the trails.

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This is the sort of thing that makes Jim weepy, apparently. Yeah, we're a little bit worried about that.
She described the trails she saw in her mind's eye winding through downtown, out across the Trinity River levees and down into the vast urban forest in southern Dallas. Then this would be a new city, she said, a city married to nature.

Instead of wincing with cynicism, I thought, "Wow, that's a very clear, very precise and extremely interesting vision. I wonder how long doll-shop here will be able to hold onto it."

So last week when she and council member Scott Griggs announced plans for a paved urban hike and bike trail the length of the levees through downtown, I literally had tears in my eyes. In an entire lifetime as a reporter covering local news, I could count on one hand the number of times I have seen somebody stick with a vision for that long and then actually pull it off.

Maybe on one finger.

It helps a great deal that Hunt now has been joined on the council by Griggs, a very smart young guy who gets it. Together, they are a force.

The trail they have pulled off, which must be called a "maintenance road" to keep the Corps of Engineers happy, will be 4.5 miles of pavement, 16 feet broad, from the Sylvan Avenue bridge at the upstream end of downtown to the Cedar Crest bridge downriver.

It will cost $6 million. They have to build it that stout, because it's out between the levees where the river floods, and anything less substantial will just get buried and ripped to shreds the first time the river spills its banks. (This is why that toll road that the nutcases want to build between the levees is two billion bucks in the red, but, ah, maybe today let's not go there.)

You may balk at that much money for a trail. But the way city money and budgets work, you can view this six million as City Council discretionary money that Hunt and Griggs rescued from the Wasterator. If not for this project, the money would have gone to some really dumb give-away.

It so happens I am working on a feature story right now, a long cover-story that I'm really excited about, dealing with other kinds of trails in the city. I would say more, but then, you know, Steve Blow will copy me the way he always does before I can get it published, and his take will be, "Trails, fails, who wants 'em? I just ride in my car."

So let me just put it like this. The trail that Griggs and Hunt are building will function as a kind of hiking and bicycling collector route linked to an entire series of much more challenging and natural trails in the city.

It's her vision from 2005 coming true. And between the two of them, Griggs and Hunt really are putting the pieces in place to make living in Dallas an entirely new experience.
If you read all that Richard Florida crap, the Christopher Leinberger stuff about the next great cities of the nation and what will make them happen, this is it. This is exactly the bull's eye that everybody wants to hit: the kind of outdoor natural engagement with the planet that will make living here attractive to the creative class.

I don't even know how much I believe in that creative class business. Sometimes I want to say, "Forget creative, it's not what it's cracked up to be. Just get a job with benefits."

But enough about my personality problems. What this announcement really shows is that Hunt and Griggs and the Dallas residents they represent are not people who are just against things.

They are not aginners. They are for something. Something grand. A real vision. But Hunt and Griggs are both tough and smart, and they don't want other things to crap up their vision before it can happen.

What a vision. How many people at City Hall can even see out the windows? What ferocious dedication and indomitable perseverance this takes. Talk about hoops and hurdles.

Maybe this really is the future, instead of ... you know. Let's not go there today. Let's just be happy. And hopeful? Wouldn't that be nice? Quirkily optimistic perhaps?

I can pull that off for about 15 minutes I think. Let me get a good white-knuckled grip on my desk here. OK, here goes. Hopefulness. I feel a sick pressure building right at my temples.



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16 comments
mds0
mds0

Great article.  We can only hope that more people with sense and vision will champion the cause.  The city is beyond hungry - we're starving for green space.  There are also ideas just being floated to turn the local Trinity tributaries into green-space and parks.  A discussion is being started on the local blog urban-eyes.org.  Full disclosure:  I know the authors, but it really is interesting stuff.

tbarker1
tbarker1

Got to hand it to both Angela and Scott. Let's keep moving on the Complete Streets. Love to see some of the work done in Sheffie's district at WRL.  Ready to ride on any new trail and would love to see the trail from W. Lawther to Medical City updated, plz.

AllenOHare
AllenOHare

@AngelaHunt @dallas_observer great news

TexOHara
TexOHara

I want to see a cage match between Schutze and Steve Blow.

bbetzen
bbetzen

Well said Jim!! The best news is that there are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of us in Dallas who LOVE what these two leaders are doing. Angela and Scott deserve every accolade they are receiving.  The good news is that other council members are slowly joining them.  That is the future for Dallas!  If we can preserve the Trinity River Treasure in our center, we can build a city that everyone wants to live in!  DISD is even making big improvements!  (See http://schoolarchiveproject.blogspot.com/2012/08/dallas-isd-is-catching-up-with-all-of.html .)  It is all slowly coming together!

 

bill.holston
bill.holston

A couple weeks back, I walked the levee from Commerce to I-35, great walk, there are loose dogs around there, but it's a cool spot, with great views of downtown and oak cliff.

CelebrateDivershitty
CelebrateDivershitty

"naïve pie-in-the-sky stuff"... funny, that's exactly what I think about almost all of your posts, Jim.   Get ready for attacks on white joggers and bikers to go up.

timetomoveon
timetomoveon

This article is good to read back to back with Eric  "the man baby" Nicholson's article about getting shot and falling off his bike on the Santa Fe trail.

AeroRazavi
AeroRazavi

Speaking of Trinity Toll Road, JS your thoughts on Clay Jenkins saying that Trinity Toll Road will be on the shelf for 4 or 5 years.

 

 

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

 @CelebrateDivershitty Well, yeah. Because I'll be out there doin' it. Who the hell you think got Eric? Thinks he can replace Wilonsky. Guess he'll think again next time.

downtownworker
downtownworker

 @AeroRazavi It's over. And maybe for the next mayoral election we can vote for someone who promises to end this debate forever.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

 @AeroRazavi That's a low-ball estimate. I assume the NTTA people are telling him, "It's on the back burner for the next couple centuries." But It's like we have this huge sitting room where all the old Park Cities people munch cucumber sandwiches and plan their next parties, and there's a big sign over the door where the servers come in with trays: "DO NOT MENTION TOLL ROAD BEING DEAD TO MEMBERS."

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

 @JimSX The color of his skin was Brindle.  Little shitbird was fast as a bullet.  Bit me on the foot. (see video on Eric's post).

 

ran off cackling something about the Dallas Morning News opinion and city hall blogs'll be back, and tell 'em Willy-boy was here.

drtz
drtz

@JimSX @AeroRazavi Don't get too excited there, Schutze. The DMN has a lovely little editorial today titled "Me like Rawlings. Toll road good. Griggs and Hunt bad.", or something along those lines. They seem to be under the impression that the toll road plans are still coming along nicely.

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