Hiking and Biking Trails Along the Trinity Blocked by Evil Ghosts of Toll Roads Past

Categories: Schutze

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Oh, tinfoil hat, all that stuff about how I'm paranoid, go ahead, say it, get it out of your system. I've got to be ready for it by now, right? But let me tell you something: There's a big difference between paranoia and clairvoyance.

And in the matter of the Trinity River toll road, I can actually see ghosts. No, really. I can see the way in which the ghost of the highway along the river -- not a stick of it built after 15 years because it's such a dumb idea -- is already there. It's sitting right there along the river, the ghost of it, hunkered down, screwing up and blocking every good thing the city could accomplish along the river like a damn voodoo haint.

See also:
Where's that Trinity Trail Council Approved a Year Ago? Still Buried Under City Hall's Big Lie.

Hear me out. Big news in the city's only daily newspaper today is a groundbreaking for construction of the segment of walk and bike trail that will link existing trails near downtown to trails around White Rock Lake. When the new section of trail is complete a couple years from now, it will create a vast loop of trail tying together an entire bike-able, walkable region of the city.

That's not just biking and walking: It's a whole new way of living. You will be able literally to live, work, shop for groceries and head out to the lake without ever firing up your stinkpot.

Guess what. There is an entire loop of paved modern trail at the other end of town, in southern Dallas, meandering around small lakes and wild grasslands. In a recent chat with City Manager Mary Suhm, she admonished me to get down there on my own bike and ride it, which she had done recently. She said it was thrilling. I still have not done it. But everybody who has biked the Great Trinity Trail tells me it can be a truly exalting experience.

So where's my ghost? Right between the Katy Trail and those recently completed paved trails to the south. Right where the old guard troglodytes still insist they're going to build that stupid underwater toll road. What do I mean? Hey, listen, this is simple. You can see the ghost, too. Just focus.

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Tommy Ironic
Go ahead. Hit the trail.
Last year, City Council members Scott Griggs and Angela Hunt were joined by Mayor Mike Rawlings in setting aside $6.4 million in discretionary bond-funded construction money for a 4.5-mile, 16-foot-wide paved trail to link Sylvan Avenue to the Santa Fe Trestle Trail in Moore Park. Everybody hailed it at the time as the crown jewel, the last detail, the missing link between trails to the north and trails to the south.

When they sold us the Trinity River project in 1998, then Mayor Ron Kirk promised its greatest value would be in tying together the northern and southern hemispheres of the city, binding wounds inflicted on the city's soul by a century and a half of racial segregation. That's a somber vow. If you're going to make that kind of promise, you better not turn out to be a total dildo about it.

Yeah, well, welcome to Dildo City. As we learned last week, the city staff won't do it. Just won't build it. Got the money. Got the go-ahead. Will not do it.

They gave some totally whacked-out reason for not doing it, of course. Hunt and Griggs had deliberately designed the trail to use a service-road right-of-way that's already approved, that's already there, so it won't require some massive federal approval process.
So the staff told the council the trail couldn't be done because city employees driving great big service vehicles would probably run over and kill bicyclists and pedestrians. They never mentioned the possibility of a training session for their employees where the main lesson would be: "DO NOT RUN OVER AND KILL PEOPLE." Whatever. They just won't do it.

So is that because the trail would get in the way of the proposed toll road? No, it's the opposite. It's because it wouldn't get in the way.

OK, hats on, everyone, please. Just for a second. You need to see how the haint works. I checked myself on it this morning with Griggs, because he's a very smart and sane person. Griggs said the problem with the trail he and Hunt wanted to create is that it would not get in the way of the toll road. In fact, it would decouple recreational uses from the toll road.

"The reason they're stalling it," he said, "is that completion of it would prove that you can have recreational amenities on that portion of the Trinity without the toll road."

Wait. It actually makes sense. I promise. From the beginning, the sponsors of the toll road have claimed that the road itself is the essential ingredient for everything else. For example, they said we had to build the toll road so we'd have it as a detour while the existing freeways downtown were rebuilt. We now know that idea is complete bullshit. Even the toll-roaders have given up on it, saying instead that we should just build the toll road and forget about fixing the major freeways.

But they still insist that all of the recreational amenities they promised, lakes and trails and solar-powered water taxis for God's sake, depend on construction of the toll road. Something to do with digging out dirt over here for the toll road and piling it up over there for parks. Or, I don't know, maybe the other way around. Anyway, bullshit again. Hunt and Griggs found a way to achieve a huge recreational home-run along the river downtown that was entirely independent of the toll road. Forget the toll road. Screw the toll road. Which is just what the toll-roaders fear.

You can take your hat off now, by the way. Please try not to crinkle it. They will not build that final segment of trail through downtown because doing it would kill the story-line about everything depending on the toll road. Once people figure out they already have access to a vast wilderness-like experience at the heart of the city, they're not only going to question the need for the toll road. They're going to start saying, "Keep that damned thing away from my trail."

The toll-roaders know that. They see it coming. That's why they're threatening to run over bikers with bulldozers. The one thing they promised us -- a recreational bond between north and south, is the one thing they do not want to see happen. Not unless, until and after they get their toll road.

This is what I like about real estate. You can be all cool and clandestine and sneaky about it, but after a while it's just there, on the map, part of the planet. Or not. This is a case of not. Look at what's not there -- this incredibly easy, already paid for, already authorized ultimate link that would finally deliver on solemn promises made to us in two elections. It's not there. It's not going to be there.

The absence of that linking trail is the ghost, the haint, the proof that the Trinity River toll road haunts every decision the city makes about the river. OK turn the lights back on. You can take your hands off the Ouija board now.

You saw it, right? Just for a second? Last thing to tell you. I don't want to scare anybody. But when it's not downtown screwing up the river, guess where that ghost lives. Yup. Under your bed.



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26 comments
lakewoodhobo
lakewoodhobo

Welcome to Dildo City. BIG dildos happen here.

MattL11
MattL11

From this point forward, all Dallas marketing materials must say "Welcome to Dildo City." 

Tom434
Tom434

Always good for JS to get his tinfoil hat out and stir up the natives.  Plus a  formation of black helicopters has just been reported over South Dallas

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

Moore Park trail is  Nicely  constructed but not inviting as an area to walk  in . Way to many places for someone to lay in wait and rob a walker runner or rider  . Or just to drag them off into the bushes and violate them .


TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

Maybe they would be more amenable to the hiking trail if we told them we're gonna' charge a toll to use it?

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

Writing above your subject matter.  You have a great talent for poetic histrionics, and it can often add something to your articles.  This is not one of those times.  You have a great point in here, but it's lost among the ghosts and the tin foil hats.  The only reason I was able to read to the end is that this topic is quite important to me.  Otherwise I would have chalked this story up to you being off your meds again and seeing 4 dumpsters float past your house during a 1/2 dumpster storm.

CitzenKim
CitzenKim

Jim, I'm totally with you on all points regarding the toll road.  But for years we read your columns about the shadowy interests pushing this road to develop their land.  After 15 years, can't SOMEBODY find out the NAMES of the people that really own this land and will get the benefits of the road?

texaspainter
texaspainter

Once again, I am very sad not to have Scott Griggs as my council representative as opposed to the DCC shill/crazy ass liar Vonciel Hill.

theslowpath
theslowpath

"WELCOME TO DILDO CITY" is going on my list of album titles for whenever I get around to starting my band. 

BenS.
BenS.

Last Thursday evening was a hot sweltering mess of a time to have the ribbon cutting at Moore Park. Gathered there in the only shade of a structure that resembles a Wehrmacht pillbox overlooking Omaha Beach were the elected city officials, Trinity Trust folks and some token neighborhood folks there for free stuff. I had never been to one of these things and with the BS being shoveled left and right, I headed down to the Standing Wave rather than stick around.

Down there on the path to the Standing Wave were two guys and a backhoe, watching concrete dry. They had just poured the last 4 foot patch of pavement that was the "missing link" to connect Moore Park/Santa Fe Trestle to the Oak Cliff side concrete I-35 trail. No fanfare. No speech. Just two guys babysitting concrete till it cured enough to walk on. In the far background I could hear Mayor Mike over a loudspeaker talking, the three of us down there at the base of the levee realized that the little patch of concrete, the last that will most likely ever be poured for a trail was probably more important than any gateway opening ever would be.

Concrete trails in far South Dallas will never catch on. The concrete Buckeye Trail is so littered with cobwebs and storm debris that it's painfully obvious that concrete there was a mistake. The Buckeye Grove itself is a Texas treasure but horribly discounted by the error in building a concrete trail nearby. The concrete trail through Joppa Preserve serves as a vector for illegal activity and illegal dumping. While it most likely serves as a great photogenic backdrop the reality of encountering someone engaged in illegal activity is very high. I worry as well as a growing number of many others that the planned trails near Audubon Center like the AT&T Trail will have a negative effect on the Great Trinity Forest and ruin some of the only pristine wilderness left in Dallas.

The AT&T Trail is a big mistake in the making. Don't build it.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

The DMN Ed Board gets these visions.  Did I tell they won a Pulitzer?  “Wait! I’m getting another visionnnnnnn . , ,”  

“Amber waves switch grass, Jimmy Hoffa and a gar.” 

What do you get when you careen off the side of THIS Tallahatchie Bridge?  

Gotta be a Bobbie Gentry song in there somewhere.  More likely, only the Odor of Billy Joe.

WylieH
WylieH

Actually, Jim, you are 100% correct.   This deal was put forward while Rawlings was still relatively new to the office of Mayor.  He sensed a lot of frustration with the Trinity project from folks interested in recreation and was looking for a way to placate them.  Unfortunately, he got a bit ahead of himself and went "off script."

After he proudly announced the deal for the trail, he was filled in by Suhm, Halstead, and others that this was undermining their strategy.  This strategy, as you correctly point out, is to hold as much "good stuff" as possible hostage to the toll road.  This is why Leppert used to say you couldn't do project Pegasus without the Toll Road, you couldn't build lakes without the Toll Road, you couldn't fix dead man's curve without the Toll Road, you couldn't relocate high voltage transmission lines without the Toll Road, etc.

A pretty cynical approach, to be sure.  But that's how Suhm rolls. 

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@Tom434 

I'm in one of them, sucker!

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@RTGolden1 

Reading may be less painful with a glove.

RobertStinson
RobertStinson

@CitzenKim JimS has addressed this in earlier columns or comments. The reason names can't be named is that many parcels are owned by trusts or other entities that cannot be traced to individuals. Not easily, anyway.

RobertStinson
RobertStinson

@BenS. I would rather see crushed gravel trails along the Trinity rather than concrete.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@BenS. 

I get all that, but then again the most powerful cleansing force for troubled areas, from Times Square to Lower Greenville, is traffic.  Pour hordes of whiny demanding middleclass worrywarts onto those trails through Southern Dallas. That's what makes the trains run on time, not Mussolini.

CitzenKim
CitzenKim

@RobertStinson @CitzenKim I do remember the complexity of the ownership arrangements, I'm just saying in 15 years surely there is some way for hard investigation to clear through all these ownership masking schemes.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@RobertStinson @CitzenKim 

Can't find old articles. So much for digital retrieval. I miss librarians. The Decherd/Dealey/Moroney clan who own the Dallas Morning News own some land along the river, some of it downtown, more of it out along I-30 where the toll road would make its northwestern nexus. Much of the other ownership is deeply occluded by false-flag names. I still think somebody sees the toll road as a truck route between Alliance Airport in Fort Worth and anything that happens eventually in the southern Dallas inland port area. Years ago I saw a big  series of graphics on the wall in the conference room at Halff Associates, where some fool invited me in for a visit (I consider being trusted by people like that a sign of disrespect) showing huge redevelopment of the entire Trinity Industrial District along the river downtown. People tell me all of that land has changed hands, but I also note that the late Louis Beecherl and the Trinity River Association, closely associated with the Stemmons family interests, were and continue to be big pushers for the toll road. They had a full-time lobbyist on it in Austin for a long time. I'm also not sure straight money interests are the most important factor here. I think you have an old leadership cadre, now maybe up in years and knocking back too many toddies, who remember that their daddies used to get things done just by saying so, and they think they should be able to, too. Look at the toll road itself. The central organizing theme for the whole idea is dumb and dumber. Dumb and dumber may be more important than money here. Who knows?

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@BenS. 


CitzenKim
CitzenKim

@JimSX @CitzenKim @RobertStinson That's a shame, because it would be a great benefit to the citizens of Dallas to finally expose the conspirators and put this toll road down for good.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@CitzenKim @RobertStinson

True. At the Times-Herald, editors would have assigned an assistant city editor, a senior reporter and a younger reporter to work on that story for two or three  months. With editing, photo, production  costs and benefits, the paper could have knocked that sucker out for  $50,000 to $75,000. Those days are gone.

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