Dallas Is Artificial? A Gallery Reveals the City's Unmentioned Natural Splendor.

Categories: Schutze

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The person who shares living quarters with me is a Dallas native who lets out a small yelp whenever she comes across a mention in the media she thinks is insulting to Dallas. I'm a carpetbagger. I don't even notice.

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Dan Burkholder
"Gold Path"
This morning's offending mention was in The New York Times and included the phrases, "a highly manufactured environment" and "the stereotype about Dallas's artificiality," both of which were read aloud to me like key testimony in a murder trial. I'm shrugging, thinking, "So what's the news?" But I know better than to say that out loud, the day still young.

My own subsequent reading of the offending mentions led me to believe these descriptions of Dallas as "manufactured" and "artificial" came originally from Texas Monthly magazine, which, c'mon, is her own people. It's not like New Yorkers said it.

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Scot Miller
"Blue Dawn"
But the important point in the item in the Times was this: It's about a show that's just about to end at Sun to Moon Gallery on Levee Street down by the river in the Dallas Design District, called "Dallas Naturally." It's photographs and film exploring the band of wild undeveloped land along the Trinity River out between the levees where most people never go.

The show presents the photographic and cinematic work of Dan Burkholder, Scot Miller, Jill Skupin Burkholder and R.P. Washburne. The images I was able to find online are windows into a magical universe I have found myself out there by stomping around, sometimes dragging a kayak, sometimes paddling with Trinity River naturalist and outfitter Charles Allen. And Texas Monthly or whoever said it was not wrong: We in Dallas do live within this man-made chrysalis, blind to the existence of an immense natural forest at the heart of our city.

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R.P. Washburne
"Heron"
It's weird that we don't see it, and not seeing it plays all kinds of tricks on us. We march out into the bottoms with an army of cranes and bulldozers, and we jam stuff into the ground like the Calatrava fake suspension bridge, because we think it's all an ugly void out there and we want something to be there. We don't get that a forest is there already -- a thing more wonderful than anything we could ever build ourselves. It's as if Dallas has reverted to the pre-Romanticist view of nature as the howling void begging to be civilized.

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Jill Skupin Burkholder
"Path"
Anyway. This show is up today and tomorrow. Sun to Moon is at 1515 Levee St., open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., phone 214-745-1199. Tomorrow throughout the day they will show a short film by Scot Miller about the forest and about Groundwork Dallas, a nonprofit that takes city kids out into the forest and teaches them about nature.

If you've ever been curious about what's out there, this is a pretty cool way to get a vision of it. Someday the scenes portrayed in these pictures will be more emblematic of Dallas than anything having to do with that bridge. The mention in the Times was right. We do live in an artificial man-made environment, but only because we are hiding from what's really all around us. (How do we make this work at home? Easy. She never reads a thing I write.)



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57 comments
tedbarker45
tedbarker45

Jim,  blogs like Dallas Trinity Trails and DFW Urban Wildlife have helped me to understand a great deal about the GTF.   Working out at the Pemberton Hill Road area the past few months, reading the old Observer articles, meeting many of the folks who really know this area has been a great experience.

Progress at Pemberton's Big Spring is being made, and all of us hope that the access to the PH Rd area will allow more people to see something unique.


marcbloch44
marcbloch44

This looks wonderful, thanks for bringing it up before it closes. I'll try to get to the gallery tomorrow.

jamesk849
jamesk849

Thanks for this article Jim. One great way to start enjoying this area would be the  Audubon Center. I've checked out a few of the trails over  around Lemmon Lake too. It is a pretty wild area which means you might  run  into  a copperhead. Not trying to scare anyone just be careful.  I would love to try the canoe trip you mentioned. It's on my list.   

Tony Tolentino
Tony Tolentino

Look at what happening to the Lakewood commercial and residential areas.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

Jim, didn't you write something sometime back about the daughter of the guy who used to own the gravel pits down in the Trinity forest setting aside a large swath of that forest as a preserve?  How solid is that preserve?  Is it something the city can dick around with, or is it pretty set in stone?

azimmiza
azimmiza

A friend visiting Dallas for the 3rd. time called our fair city a  shopping center. 

notmadeomoney
notmadeomoney

The funny thing about "nature preserves" is they want to remove all traces of human activity.... unless it was built by Native Americans or by the CCC.

Donnie Hebert
Donnie Hebert

I'd way more offended had he said that about Seattle

Rebecca Tolentino
Rebecca Tolentino

I tend to agree it is artificial. And lots of the people here as well.

BenS.
BenS.

Big meeting this morning in the Great Trinity Forest concerning the future of Big Spring. Guess how many city department heads and managers are in the photo http://imageshack.us/a/img836/4357/lnjy.jpg

Too many to count. Plus a notable selection of concerned citizens. Many should be familiar faces.

Carving out what will become a historic landmark and preserve is a methodical and somewhat difficult task to do from scratch. Lots of concern with how this all turns out and how the work here will preserve a Pre-Columbian Native American site, natural spring and one of the last pieces of natural Dallas left inside Loop 12.

R.s. Rosenquist
R.s. Rosenquist

That's rich coming from the New York Times, where Central Park is literally a manufactured landscape, and the shoreline is artificially constructed.

ruddski
ruddski

Certainly folks realize that in Texas environment, you need to have a lot of artificiality, like buildings and such. What do they want, teepees and covered wagons? And th last

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

Yes, there is pretty of natural beauty in and around Dallas. What's artificial is many of the people you run across.

mcdallas
mcdallas

How can we be World Class when all this nature keeps getting in the way?  The last thing we need is you bragging on someone's instagram photos of our nature.  We need more consulting firm photos of buildings and bridges!

julytonio
julytonio

The main problem is that most of the natural land in this city is inhabited by bums.  That makes it just a little unsafe to go for a nice stroll through the "forest".

LeroyJenkem
LeroyJenkem

Honestly, this is why I tell people to take the DART trains, because they have no idea how much forest runs through this city and how much wildlife lives in that forest. I've regularly pointed out the bobcats passing between the fences and rails, hunting rabbits or just simply wandering, as well as foxes, coyotes, Texas rat snakes, jackrabbits, and both red-tailed and Harris's hawks, all from the comfort of an air-conditioned train. Best of all, get out in early spring, when the dogwood, redbud, and other early-budding trees stand out among the other still-dormant trees.

if6were9
if6were9

Cue Bill Holston commenting in 3.....2.....1

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Same in every urban environ. How many NYers actually see Central Park each year?

The point us...get off the highway, roll down the windows...there actually IS sumpin goin on out there beyond vyour cocoon.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@Chris Chairez 

Are you talking about Dealey Plaza?

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@notmadeomoney traces such as plastic grocery bags, discarded tires, beer cans...?

tedbarker45
tedbarker45

@BenS. Ben, thanks for the photo of our trip. First big step, a compromise, and more to come.  City staff and citizens learned from each other.  Hopeful that we can move this along.

casiepierce
casiepierce

@BenS. I think there was interest from the National Park Service some years ago but the city poo-pooed it.

casiepierce
casiepierce

@mcdallas I know that you are being tongue-in-cheek, but these are not merely "someone's instagram photos." These are professional photographers whose works include many, many parts of the country (please google their names). Scot and Marilyn Miller have been very supportive of the work of Groundwork Dallas and did a great promo video several years ago. You really should go check out the gallery this weekend. 

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@julytonio 

Hey, c'mon dude. Way out there? Those are not bums. Those are the descendants of the bums. Those are urban indigenous peoples. Take some trade goods and a ten dollar machete, you'll be fine. Set off some small explosives, and they will think you're God. Demand that they give you their virgins and their bauxite mine. Stand up for civilization, man!

casiepierce
casiepierce

@if6were9 Have you ever been there? No? Then shut up. My neighborhood is at the northeasternmost section of the forest and our (Groundwork Dallas) kids from Dixon Circle have been trained to carve out soft-surface trails, a thing that a lot of North Dallas kids would LOVE to have on their resumes.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@ozonelarryb 

But Central Park is entirely man-made.  Much of ours is natural. And ours is WAAAAY bigger than Central Park.

mcdallas
mcdallas

@casiepierce @mcdallas I am being tongue in cheek.  But I understand that any effort, either intentional or unintentional to disparage another's "art" goes against the DO commenter policy.  I will accept any public flogging that I have earned.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

I forgot. Before you leave, tell them they're all Baptists now.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

So what. Yohr column touts a media exhibit, not nature. Like NYers going to a gallery to view pix of CP...

Your Trinity wilderness is too far for our instant gratification society to go see, so maybe a media presentation of it is perfect for D - we can see local mother nature on our ipads. Pergect metaphor for the Times' point.

Daniel
Daniel

@JimSXI LOOKED at him, lost in astonishment. There he was before me, in motley, as though he had absconded from a troupe of mimes, enthusiastic, fabulous. His very existence was improbable, inexplicable, and altogether bewildering. He was an insoluble problem. It was inconceivable how he had existed, how he had succeeded in getting so far, how he had managed to remain-- why he did not instantly disappear. `I went a little farther,' he said, `then still a little farther--till I had gone so far that I don't know how I'll ever get back. Never mind. Plenty time. I can manage. You take Kurtz away quick--quick--I tell you.' The glamour of youth enveloped his parti-coloured rags, his destitution, his loneliness, the essential desolation of his futile wanderings. For months--for years--his life hadn't been worth a day's purchase; and there he was gallantly, thoughtlessly alive, to all appearances indestructible solely by the virtue of his few years and of his unreflecting audacity. I was seduced into something like admiration-- like envy. Glamour urged him on, glamour kept him unscathed. He surely wanted nothing from the wilderness but space to breathe in and to push on through. His need was to exist, and to move onwards at the greatest possible risk, and with a maximum of privation. If the absolutely pure, uncalculating, unpractical spirit of adventure had ever ruled a human being, it ruled this bepatched youth. I almost envied him the possession of this modest and clear flame. It seemed to have consumed all thought of self so completely, that even while he was talking to you, you forgot that it was he-- the man before your eyes--who had gone through these things. I did not envy him his devotion to Kurtz, though. He had not meditated over it. It came to him, and he accepted it with a sort of eager fatalism. I must say that to me it appeared about the most dangerous thing in every way he had come upon so far.

mcdallas
mcdallas

@ozonelarryb Yeah.  Let's build a road in it so people can have a "drive-thru" experience!

bodaddle
bodaddle

@Hiker @JimSX @ozonelarryb 

Yep, Hiker, first thing I thought when I saw the "Path" painting that Jim posted was, "That path needs to be cleared out and a slab of concrete ten feet wide and twelve inches deep poured - simplifies the maintenance and makes it easier on the inline skaters. Also you just can't pour too much concrete.   

Daniel
Daniel

@JimSX Even White Rock Lake is bigger than Central Park. 

Hiker
Hiker

@JimSX @ozonelarryb One of the problems with any resource like this is that, once you begin to pour miles of concrete wheelchair rights of way through it as with Audubon and the GTF, you've already effectively begun to turn it into a glorified miniature golf course.

We want our nature, but we only want a nature broken to our popular urban beliefs and demands, theme destinations for the naive no different from pouring a roadway in a river course.

The next big chapter in Dallas history will be the clear cutting and pacification of the southern sector, inhabited only by easily managed indigenous peoples who won't cause any trouble. The moonscape leftovers of the failed Belo plant is a perfect example of what lies in store for everything else.

But you'll probably be able to get smart phone reception and the perfect macchiato anywhere along your stroll, or roll.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@JimSX Of course.  As you've written many times, the Trinity is an untapped treasure for Dallas, natural or not.  I can think of many wonderful uses for the downtown floodway, not one of them involving soccer fields, fracking rigs or submarine tollways.  A less-controversial rapids feature would be a good start.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@JimSX What RT said.  The trinity flood plains can have some mighty pleasing nature, but quite a lot of it isn't indigenous.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

True, true, although I even like the downtown floodway once I'm standing on it.

yoka
yoka

@JimSX @ozonelarryb Really?  I must admit I thought CP was much bigger; thanks for that stat.  I appreciate the opportunity to learn about this city's unspoiled spaces, but now that the news is out, I fear a gaggle of Big Bucks Dallas Developers will descend like locusts, pouring concrete and erecting steel.  Certainly none of those movers and shakers believe that land is meeting it's potential.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@JimSX @ozonelarryb just an observation: 1) The Trinity between the levees is, for the most part entirely manufactured.  Even the river isn't in its natural bed.  And 'in the heart of the city', there's not much forest between the levees.  Now, south of the heart of the city, there's some forest.

Not trying to detract from what you wrote, Jim, I loved the piece.  I often find myself at odds with myself over the Trinity forest.  I'd love for more Dallasites to 'discover' the Forest, yet, I loathe the prospect of more people in the forest (and the resulting more trash in the forest).

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