Preservationists Think Dallas' White Rock-to-I-20 Trail is a Really Terrible Idea

Categories: The Environment

Thumbnail image for TrinityForestSpineHorses.jpg
City of Dallas
A vision of the future Trinity Forest Spine Trail
This past weekend accountant-cum-outdoorsman Ben Sandifer, author of the Dallas Trinity Trails blog, donned his Carhart overalls and led a small cadre of nature types and SMU engineering students down to Big Spring, the site of preservationists' ongoing but apparently successful battle with City Hall.

Initial surveys put the modest seep -- once home to Dallas founder John Neely Bryan, a rare urban water source that people haven't ruined -- in the path of the Texas Horse Park, but plans have changed. Now, the city is working to protect it.

As Sandifer led the group through a wet meadow to showcase a beaver dam, he gestured a few paces into the woods, toward another potential trouble spot. It's just trees and underbrush right now but soon, whenever it can find the money, the city wants to put down a 12-foot-wide ribbon of concrete as part of the Trinity Spine Trail, which will stretch from White Rock to Interstate 20.

See also: Preservationists Want to Stop the City from Building the Texas Horse Park Over Historic Spring

Sandifer thinks this is a terrible idea. So do a lot of his comrades, men and women who devote themselves to the study and enjoyment of the Great Trinity Forest.

The primary concern is with the environmental damage that comes with putting what is basically a small road through land as wild as anything you'll find in a major city. Beavers, otters and mink frequent the area, as do a wide array of birds: wood storks, ibises, anhingas, roseate spoonbills, some from South America that summer here. Then there are the plants.

"The impact's to the forest," says Tim Dalbey. "What they do, when they go in to build these trails, they spare nothing doing it. It's like building a road." Trees are cut down, native grasses are cleared to make room for equipment, then the rebar and concrete. "All kinds of invasive species get in there and grow because they've opened the canopy up," Dalbey said.

That's the beginning. "My true concern is not the construction but the destruction that the concrete trails bring with it after completion," Sandifer writes in an email. "As evidenced from past phases of the Trinity Trail system, Phases I and II, they have become havens for crime, vectors for illegal dumping, firearms being discharged, general mayhem, prostitution. I call it poor land stewardship and management."

Cars, too, which Sandifer often sees driving throughout the forest, since there are no barriers at the trail heads to stop them.

See also: Dallas Wants to Build a $20-Million Trail From White Rock to I-20

Chris Jackson with DFW Urban Wildlife doesn't think the trail will have much long-term impact on animals.

"Much more concerning to me than the impact on the area's wildlife is just the potential folly of building more trails through such isolated and potentially dangerous areas," he says. "I'm not yet convinced that the city appreciates its responsibility for ensuring public safety in these places. Nor does it yet seem to be fully committed to the maintenance of existing parks and trails or to the stewardship of these public lands."

Finally, there's the question of who will use the Trinity Spine Trail. The stretches that are already there are mostly empty. Maybe that will change once people realize they can ride their bikes from I-20 to the arboretum, but don't bet on it.

None of these guys are opposed to trails per se, not even when they're made of concrete. They just think they should be placed on utility rights of way and other places where the trees have already been clear-cut, as some, but not all, of the Trinity Forest Spine Trail is.

For the stretch near Big Spring, Dalbey says there's a route where the city could break off of Elam Road and head across toward U.S. 175 with minimal damage.

"A lot of it's disturbed already," he says. "You could do that and still get the Trinity Forest bottomland experience."

He's not optimistic. The city decides to build a trail, and it builds the trail where it wants.

"If there's any green space down there, I guarantee you they'll find it and fuck it up."

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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55 comments
manpanties
manpanties

at least let the archaeology guys go in there and do proper excavations before its all ripped up and concreted over.  under those tires that ben is so upset about are artifacts and hearth sites that could reveal an incredible history that has to a large degree only been available to looters.

benwellsstreet
benwellsstreet

Sounds like a bunch of aging hipsters trying to keep their little outdoorsy getaway to themselves. The trinity is a hell hole of garbage. Tires are buried everywhere. Trash is dumped everywhere. Burned out cars. In the river. You can see how high the river gets from the endless line (of easily a million) trash bags stuck in tree branches. Yes, people fire off their assault rifles too near the boat ramp under loop 12 and the Joppa preserve trail.

And, of course, the best way to solve all of these problems is to... Get more responsible people down there.

I hope some hippie douche doesn't ruin it for us all because he wants to be some kind of environmental hero. The environment down there is beyond pitiful. I bet he would have been opposed to putting the road around white rock lake too. Now I can drive right into sunset bay and watch as the sun goes down on several hundred migratory birds. Nature doesn't care

BarryQ
BarryQ

The men in the article along with their friends have done the citizens of Dallas a great service with their efforts along the Trinity. They won't take credit for it as they are too modest. They deserve all the praise we can give them and more. Not today or tomorrow but someday their efforts will be well rewarded.

Rather than fight the city over theses issues they have approached it much differently, one of cooperation. This has led to an evolving relationship with City Hall that has fostered some great things. It has also laid a foundation for the future preservation of a unique freshwater spring in Dallas and a bona fide Indian site. Great work they are doing. They have really got something good going with the city.


I have mountain biked for years on the Trinity with one of the guys in the article. He does not need to but he takes people on rides down there and shows us all these great places full of history and wildlife. We have seen deer, pigs and the best was 3 years ago a Bald Eagle near the golf course area, it flew right over our heads. We have also seen, dozens of us at a time, illegal dumping, hearing gunshots and people driving personal cars in the woods.


Let's be smart before building things there.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

The only question for me is whether the first story about it after it is done will be about the rash of rapes on the trail or people being attacked by packs of wild dogs.

tbarker1
tbarker1

Read the commentary by Ben in the referenced articles.  Anyone who has used other trails in floodplain areas will have experienced the high water issues and aftermath.  


I would suggest that anyone with corporate contacts to ATT get in touch and have the senior staff come down to the GTF and other trails to see the issues.


Tim, Ben and others are right on target with their perspectives here. The work we are all doing, as volunteers, at Big Spring is having an impact.  The land nearby, not directly involved in the Horse Park, warts and all, can be quite an experience.


Before too many narky posts pop up, go and visit Dallas Trinity Trails Blog to see what Ben and Tim and many others see.


Now, with that said, there are a lot of guns down in the area from 175 to Loop 12 and beyond.  Trucks and ATV's can be found down there on the trails and in the wetland or forest areas.  Several of us have been pressing the DPD, PARD and Trinity Watershed to stop the illegal activities. In fact, a big meet is set for Mar 12th on security and policing of the area.

DallasNative
DallasNative

Trail or road? Its being built by the Public Works Department, not the Park and Recreation Department . . . Just sayin' 

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

The boundary waters canoe area is two million acres, half in  Minnesota, the other half in Ontario. On the American side, all sorts of amenities have been added -- fixed camp sites, porta-johns, signage -- to make it more accessible, plus you can use motor boats in most of it. On the Canadian side, not a damn thing and only scant use of motorboats, and they restrict the shit out of access. You have to make reservations months ahead to even get in. The end result is that the Canadian side is gorgeously pristine and wilderness-like but harder to get into and around in. The American side is much easier to get into and around in, but it's so crowded and noisy that once you're there you might as well have stayed home and taken the log ride at the State Fair.    

roadrunnerdallas
roadrunnerdallas

This is an interesting issue. By the way, Ben and Tim and a host of others have been down in the Trinity Bottoms for years dealing with the issues in the story. Up until recently the City told them to go home and get over it.


The ATT Trail design north of the Horse Park intersects with Pemberton Hill Road at Lake June Road and runs west. This is the Pemberton Hill Portal.


The ATT design assumes condemnation of private land or lands, and a cut directly through the privately owned beaver pond zone and the publicly owned coneflower zone west and then southwest to the ONCOR right of way.


The park area is now zoned commercial with hotels, so that is a factor in commercial development of the park land.


(The City has declared in the past that it will get all lands west of Pemberton Hill Road. A trial is set this coming June for the Rhadames Solano property seizure. The City is relentless in taking what it wants for someone else with a more important commercial use. June will also be exciting with the scheduled trial for illegal dumping in the same area. Lots of legal stuff going on to keep the lawyers employed.)


The ATT design look nice with curves and a nice bridge right in the middle of a permanent wetland teeming with wildlife.


The actual beaver pond zone is prone to flash flooding. One inch of rain in the drainage area can bring waist deep water in a very short period of time. A rain of five inches or so can be noted in the black tree trunks in the area at about the six to seven foot height.


In any rain event, the concrete path area in the northern horse park zone south of the beaver pond will be cut off with no escape. If you are down there in a major rainstorm to the north, you will have to fight for your life.


The easier access for the ATT Trail is an Oncor right of way 1200 feet south of the present design Portal.


In a perfect world, the City could simply move the Pemberton Hill ATT Trail entry point south, enter at the Oncor right of way, and then carve out their concrete path westward.


Bottom line, ATT needs to step in and show if they want to be portrayed as willing participants in the destruction of permanent wetlands in the Pemberton Hill area, and whether ATT favors and encourages condemnation of private property to put in the ATT Trail of Environmental Destruction.


The City certainly doesn't care about what the Citizens think. The City would prefer all the troublesome Citizens go back home and shut up and leave the world to the certified smart folks at City Hall.


But ATT may not want to portrayed as welcoming the ATT Trail of Environmental Destruction.


The discourse now should be publicly with ATT, not the City of Dallas. ATT calls the shots...




CBS5
CBS5

wait, this is seriously his real objection?!! "

"As evidenced from past phases of the Trinity Trail system, Phases I and II, they have become havens for crime, vectors for illegal dumping, firearms being discharged, general mayhem, prostitution."

Yes, by all accounts nature would be better served if we moved it someplace other than next to the country's 5th most populated city....damn those humans and their meddling ways.

- The trail is a great idea. Getting people into the Trinity to actually experience it, get outdoors, and enjoy is fantastic.  I can't wait to ride and run down there.

- My only personal request would be for a crushed granite surface (see town lake), but as my minimal contribution don't get me a voice, I'll take what I can get.

Voot
Voot

That's not a trail, that's a fucking road. When are you naive Dallas children going to realize that not all the rapacious developers are evil conservatives. Some want to take your last natural treasure and turn it into a fucking dog park.

WylieH
WylieH

Too many civil engineers, not enough consultation with those that have experience in park & trail design.

NickMDal
NickMDal

@benwellsstreet  The Trinity is "a hell hole of garbage."  A perfect metaphor for people with nothing worthwhile to contribute, but who are driven to blather anyway...benwellsstreet

robtbunch7
robtbunch7

@benwellsstreet "Sounds like a bunch of aging hipsters trying to keep their little outdoorsy getaway to themselves."

For one thing my friend Ben Sandifer is no hippie douche but your reply clearly shows you to be a typical self absorbed douche bag that thinks humans are the only species that matters. No matter what you say or think it won't be ruined for all of us because many of us don't want it .And we don't want to keep the Trinity forest to ourselves, you can damn well go down there any time you want. No one is stopping you. You just don't want to get your new tennies muddy. But wait, you better not go down there, you'd probably get lost even with a paved trail to show you the way.

Being an environmental hero is good. Being an a-hole douche bag hero, as you seem to want to be, not so good.

Tolldya
Tolldya

@benwellsstreet  I suggest you read through the Trinity Trails blog before you go about 'trashing' the Trinity Forest.  People may not respect it, but the wildlife call it home.

tbarker1
tbarker1

@BarryQ  I have seen quite a few photos of all of you at Big Spring, along the various trails and down at TRAC.  The cyclists and hikers see things that motorists will never see.  

roadrunnerdallas
roadrunnerdallas

@DallasNative Brings up an interesting issue. The current concrete being poured down by Loop 12  appears to be about eight feet or so. So it is not for emergency vehicle access. Anybody measured that trail width yet? Is it ADA approved?

tbarker1
tbarker1

@DallasNative  There are two entities that plan and arrange development in this area: PARD and Trinity Watershed.  Both Jordan and Hellmann will be able to fill everyone in on the details.  


As for contracts: you will likely have to do Open Records unless Jim S or Eric already have them.

roadrunnerdallas
roadrunnerdallas

@DallasNative I'd like to be referred to the contract. When the issue of the Trail comes up, you have to talk to Michael Hellman of Park and Recreation on details.

RobertStinson
RobertStinson

@JimSX That's not accurate at all, Jim. When is the last time you were there? You can use motors in 25% of the lakes (not MOST) of the American side of the BWCA. Even then, the horsepower of the motors is highly restricted. And most of the amenities have been built with proximity to the points of entry. The are are not spread throughout the 1 million + acres on the American side. Motorboat restrictions were put in place in the 70s and access to the Boundry Waters is highly restricted.

roadrunnerdallas
roadrunnerdallas

@JimSX Less can certainly be more. A lot of people go down into the Trinity Forest on foot and on dirt bikes without having paved surfaces.


Trails can be very good in some places and not so good in other places. With open carry weapons a given in the Trinity Forest Lawless Zone, you have to be very careful when you go down there in some places.



BarryQ
BarryQ

@CBS5  

How often do you jog Phase I and II? They have been open for years. I would guess you have not jogged them. A few days ago a woman threatened to kill her children at the trailhead. It was on Channel 8. Many car break ins and many guns being fired in that area.

JohnSmallBerries
JohnSmallBerries

@WylieH  Actually not. Some of the professionals involved are in the business precisely so they aren't just slinging concrete around. 

benwellsstreet
benwellsstreet

So am I to assume you have canoed/kayaked from the Santa Fe Trestle Trail to I-45 @ Loop 12? Because anybody that has completed that segment would be a hypocrite to argue otherwise. There is a burned out abandoned stolen truck in the middle of the river at the start of that trip that has been there for at least a full year. ...and the story doesn't change in the least (really, gets worse) as you hike through the "Great Trinity Forest."

It's certainly a trash pit. The best thing for the area would be to build a trail there so more upstanding citizens can find their way out there ... Because no corporation (and definitely not the city) will ever pay to clean it all up... It'll have to be done on the backs of good people.

tbarker1
tbarker1

@robtbunch7 @benwellsstreet  Go Robert. See you tonight while you are taking more amazing photographs of the wildlife that frequent the park system and exotic locations on the map of the USA.  Methinks an enema is needed for some of the commentators.

benwellsstreet
benwellsstreet

I just think trying to block a trail getting laid is a stupid shortsighted idea.

I can guarantee you the city wouldn't have ruined the mccommas bluffs to build some kind of sewer line had there been bike/jog trails in the area.

Why is it ok to build the arboretum center but not a 12 foot wide concrete path through the same environment.? Same concept to me. Give people a way to appreciate the area and they will. Once there are people besides a few mountain bikers and his weblog fan club the trinity forest will be a jewel of Dallas - just like white rock lake.

benwellsstreet
benwellsstreet

And if we hadn't flooded it, think of all the used car lots we could have had there!

CBS5
CBS5

@BarryQ -   I have ridden (but not run) from WRL to and on both phase I and II.  The problem is they are just a couple of miles long.I actually run the levee tops mostly.  I also love trail running at the Audubon/forest areas.   I can't wait for all of these trails to be connected to downtown and out to WRL. As they stand now they are a tad isolated and far away for regular use.

Everything you described crime wise also occurs at WRL, but I am fairly certain that is not a result of concrete trails.

WylieH
WylieH

@JohnSmallBerries @WylieH  Not saying the two are mutually exclusive, but some of these recreational amenities look like they were done by highway engineers.  (See photo above)

NickMDal
NickMDal

@benwellsstreet  You happen to sound exactly like an astroturfer.  You are insulting your intended audience with this tired "people versus the elite" populist tripe. This is becoming so easy to see through.


"ASTROTURFERS use software to mask their identity. Sometimes one individual operates over many personas to give the impression of widespread support for their client's agenda. Some studies suggest astroturfing can alter public viewpoints and create enough doubt to inhibit action."


What an idiotic stereotype you're trying to cast about me, wrong on all counts.  I was a weekend warrior in the Army and I spend 20-30 hours per week on outdoor pursuits.


You're just a phony butthole!  :-)


So this whole thread is a waste.  Your opinion doesn't mean a damn thing.  As an astroturfer, you aren't even a real person and your trying to speak on behalf of Dallasites?


Thanks for drawing attention to this.  It helps improve public awareness about astroturfing!


benwellsstreet
benwellsstreet

Lol what are you even talking about. You're probably just another weekend warrior with a degree from SMU trying to keep the place to yourself.

What's the matter, do you hate south Dallas? If AT&T wants to build a trail, the only thing we should say "thank you, may we have another?"

NickMDal
NickMDal

@benwellsstreet  I have kayaked the full length and gps hiked as much as anyone.  There are large clean-up projects underway.  e.g. Dallas groundwork, TRAC.  It is being restored but meets the resistance of development forces and close-minded people - as you come off.  You've angered an awful lot of people with your running off like that.  Nature doesn't care?  Nature isn't an entity with intention.  It is a mixture of wildlife, geologic, aquatic, etc. processes and systems.  They are drastically impacted by what we build around them.  Your "hell hole of garbage" is a perfect example how our unconsidered actions can go horribly wrong.

benwellsstreet
benwellsstreet

While its been fun getting bullied by a bunch of old fart hippies virulently resistant to any sort of change in the status quo, it's painfully obvious that none of you have EVER been in the "great" trinity forest. A kayak ride through it can only be described as a "post-apocalyptic deliverance." there is absolutely nothing worth saving with 50 miles of that trash pit and any opinion contrary to that is beyond ignorant.

We don't need trails on the utility ROWs, that's what Plano and Richardson has. Dallas doesn't ever need to be Plano or Richardson.

Get over it, this isn't Yellowstone. It's not even the hill country. It's a wooded trash pit where vagrants cook meth and small businesses dump tires.

CGJ1293
CGJ1293

@benwellsstreet Why do you want a trail through a trash pit? What's your investment in this argument?  You sound a little like an idiot.

benwellsstreet
benwellsstreet

You guys must be talking about some other forest. "pristine"? "unspoiled"? No, the whole place is a trash pit. If you want to save Big Spring then go for it.

...But let's not pretend the forest is somehow remotely unique or in any way needing of "preservation." bulldoze the whole thing and make 3 golf courses. The hawks and armadillos will be fine.

CGJ1293
CGJ1293

@benwellsstreet Bud, you need to take another look at what the city did to McCommas Bluff.  They tore the bluff apart so that they could install abutments for, you guessed it, a future trail bridge.  You do not understand enough about what you are talking about to have the strong opinions you are expressing.  No one in the article is opposed to trails--they are only opposed to reckless and irresponsible trail building.

BarryQ
BarryQ

@benwellsstreet  

I assume you mean the Audubon Center, not the Arboretum. The Audubon Center is built on a former EPA Superfund cleanup site and former landfill. The Audubon Building adds to the Great Trinity Forest it does not subtract. The spine trail would subtract value not add to it. 

Your suggestion of paving the forest and ruining some of it, to save the rest, is absurd. There is true unspoiled forest there. The concrete would run right through many of the pristine areas that you have never seen. Do you need a wheelchair/motorized scooter to get around or something? Hard to figure why you like concrete so much. Maybe you are part of the concrete lobby pushing to build these trails.


Who is blocking what? No one is interested in stopping projects. It is suggested in the article that existing powerline right of ways be used, ones that are already cleared for maintenance. Use those instead. 

The overall idea of a concrete trail from Tension to Pleasant Grove is fucking retarded from the word go.


RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@benwellsstreet Actually, if you go just north of McCommas bluff landfill, there is a trail you can walk, 12ft wide and paved.  You start at Simpson Stuart Rd and you can walk up through the Joppa Preserve, first alongside lake lemmon (dry), then through a small park at the end of River Oaks Rd, then under the HC power lines and on up the parking lot for the Trinity ramps off of S. Loop 12.

One of the first things you'll notice is " Wow, this paved trail sure must have made it easier for people to come in here and dump their trash by the truckful instead of an armload at a time."  I'm not begrudging the trail itself, I love to run it, up and back.  Just pointing out that just because the preservationists have a point you don't agree with doesn't make them douchebags.  The do have a point, and it is valid.  Without a constant enforcement presence on these types of trails (which the city cannot afford), you get trash dumping, homeless wanderers, and, if enough of you trail-needy pampered folks are using the trails, you get the types of criminals who like to prey on trail-needy pampered folks.  In other words you get White Rock.  We already have a White Rock, we don't need another one.

robtbunch7
robtbunch7

@benwellsstreet Well, your entitled to your opinion but that's no reason to disrespectfully call environmentalists and wildlife preservationists "aging hipsters" or "hippie douches" or comment that they are are trying to keep it to themselves.

"I can guarantee you the city wouldn't have ruined the mccommas bluffs to build some kind of sewer line had there been bike/jog trails in the area."

Not sure I believe that. There are bike and jog trails at WR lake but they are always trying to ram some stupid pet project down our throats like paving Winfrey Point for an arboretum parking lot, building a damn restaurant on Boy Scout Hill on the NE side of the lake, or building a new "boathouse". All these projects destroy wildlife habitat and the peace and beauty of WR Lake but the city cares not. "The City" can not be trusted. City leaders are too concerned about making Dallas a "world class city". What a joke! Dallas is a nice place to live in but it isn't and never will be a WCC and I, for one, like it better that way.

tbarker1
tbarker1

@Billh @benwellsstreet  Bill, thanks for the support comment for Ben and Tim, and people like yourself.


I can see that many of the commentators have not read the Dallas Trinity Trails blog and need to do so.


The high school students and the college students who have been learning in the living laboratory of the GTF can attest to what all of the adults have been experiencing.


How about the bike rafting down the Trinity to White Rock Creek, cycling tours and much more, eh?


Glad to know all of you.

Billh
Billh

@benwellsstreet  hippie douche? Obviously you do not know Ben. There are areas of genuine beauty in the Trinity Forest, as many have commented, there's abundant wildlife. All anyone is suggesting is not to put pavement through areas that are natural and wild. There are tons of hardly used paved trails. There are those of us that would prefer to walk on natural surface, without the huge right of way the eliminates trees. 


Yes, there's tons of urban trash in the Trinity. But for anyone with a mind to explore, there's a lot of natural beauty. 

JohnSmallBerries
JohnSmallBerries

@TheCredibleHulk @JohnSmallBerries @WylieH  You laugh because you don't have an idea what is being pictured and I don't blame you. Those folks doing the picturing - whether it is a trail in Dallas, a rec center in El Paso, or a a concept for housing in Cleveland, rarely if ever explain what it is they are picturing. That just causes confusion and it causes someone to come along later and say, "We were promised..." when in fact they weren't. 


That is their fault. This picture - and all others like it - are at the planning phase. It says, "This can be here according to the plan if the powers at be want to fulfill it." That is why "it is important not to confuse visual concept with any final design." There may not ever be a design, money, movement or action or anything. When this picture comes up, those things are still a long way off if they ever come at all.

JohnSmallBerries
JohnSmallBerries

@WylieH @JohnSmallBerries  and that is a fair point.

One of the desired uses is equestrian use and typical pedestrian/bike use nearby and hence the horse and bikes. In this kind of concept art, sometimes amenity concepts are added because the art is available at hand. It is important not to confuse visual concept with any final design.

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