Free DMA Admission + Klyde Warren Park = Beginning of a New Dallas

The Dallas Museum of Art just announced museum admission will be free, starting in January.

This is awesome. This is going to open up the museum to an entirely new group of people who’ve never set foot in a museum. For residents, it’ll become a new destination, and for conventioneers and visitors, a great introduction to Dallas.

This is yet another step towards a new, better, cooler, funner Dallas. Klyde Warren Park, to me, was step one: a fun park with lots of stuff to do, that’s free to the public. The combo of KWP and the DMA will be terrific. Play at the park, hit the museum, come back to the park for dinner. Very fun.

In a perfect world, here’s what else would be free: DART. The Nasher. The Zoo. The Arboretum. Neiman’s. (A girl can dream.) Add a robust system of bike lanes and I think Dallas can be the coolest city in the country. Yeah, I said it.

City Unveils Plans for Trail Safety Improvements

Following the tragic accident on the Katy Trail that took the life of Lauren Huddleston in October, I met with board members from the Friends of the Katy Trail, park staff, public works staff, and police to discuss an immediate action plan to address trail safety.  I challenged them to come up with a comprehensive plan within 45 days.  This memorandum is a summary of the resulting work plan.

The plan is robust and addresses both immediate and long-term safety needs.  Here are a few highlights of the immediate improvements:

  • Increased police presence on the trail
  • Improvements to the street crossings at the Katy Trail at Harvard Dr. and at Knox St.
  • Restriping the Katy Trail
  • Updated trail safety guidelines

I am most excited about the following two aspects of our plan which I believe will have a long-term, positive impact:

First, we have created the Dallas Trail Safety Advisory Committee, comprised of city staff, key park board members, a nationally-recognized local trail planner, and members of key stakeholder groups.  This group will begin meeting this week and is tasked with developing consensus on appropriateness and feasibility of various ideas of improving trail safety.  Some of their topics of discussion will include:

  • Facility design standards (width, separation, etc.)
  • User behavior and concerns
  • Regulation and enforcement (police, radar signage, speed limits, etc.)
  • Pertinent city codes and ordinances

Secondly, we are launching a dynamic advertising campaign to promote trail safety.  Elements of the campaign may include:

  • Trail signage
  • Brochures/flyers/ banners/posters
  • Billing inserts (water bills, etc.)
  • Advertisements (newspapers, billboards, magazines, etc.)
  • Public service announcements (radio and television)
  • Internet applications (websites, social media, etc)
  • Retail and office applications (bike shops, running stores, veterinarian, clinics, etc)

My thanks to Assistant Director of the Parks Department, Willis Winters, and his team, as well as the Friends of the Katy Trail, for working diligently to develop this important, comprehensive safety plan.

Exciting Changes Coming to Tietze Park!

On Wednesday, the City Council approved some exciting improvements to Tietze Park that will begin next month.

In early November, Park Department staff, Tietze Foundation board members, and my appointee to the Park Board, Wayne Smith, met to go over the new enhancements to Tietze Park. There will be a new loop trail around the entire park as well as new connecting sidewalks to join some of the existing pathways. There will also be several new benches around the park mounted on concrete pads, a new ADA-approved water fountain, new trash receptacles, some new picnic tables, and a portable restroom enclosure. The total cost of this project is $254,808, paid for with 2006 Bond funds.

There will also be shade structures installed by the contractor that were paid for by the “The Friends of Tietze Park Foundation.”  Brick pavers that were sold by the Foundation will also be installed during this project. Work should begin in January 2011 and completed by November 2011. The City of Dallas and District 14 are fortunate to have a group like the “Friends of Tietze Park Foundation” to assist in this wonderful renovation project at Tietze Park!

Woodall Rodgers Park “Groundmaking”

Yesterday, I attended the “groundmaking” for the Woodall Rodgers Park, a 5.2 acre deck park that will be constructed above the Woodall Rodgers Freeway between Pearl and St. Paul streets.

I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation (the non-profit that has raised private funds for the park and which will operate and maintain the park).  Over the last several years, I’ve worked with the Foundation to ensure that the park was included in the 2006 bond program, to make Harwood Street pedestrian-only within the park, and to coordinate with surrounding stakeholders.  In 2006, I joined them in visiting Millennium Park in Chicago and Bryant Park in New York City.  In addition to touring the parks, we visited with community leaders who had been key to the parks’ creation.

The Real Estate Council sponsored a breakfast before the groundmaking ceremony.  TREC has been instrumental in the park’s creation — originating the concept and providing seed money.  The breakfast featured Tony Jones (pictured), Chancellor of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, who gave a very engaging presentation on “Millennium Park, Chicago: Art, Entertainment and Economics, a model for Woodall Rodgers Park and Downtown Dallas.”

You can check out some pictures from the breakfast and groundmaking as well as from our 2006 trip.

Council Transfers Zoo Management to Non-Profit

Last Wednesday, the Dallas City Council unanimously approved turning over management of the zoo to a non-profit organization, a spin-off of the philanthropic Dallas Zoological Society.  I supported this decision and think in the longrun it’ll improve our zoo.

However, I didn’t like the fact that this was rushed through, and several councilmembers also voiced their concern that this proposal was moving too fast.  The council had only been briefed about the matter the week before.  The mayor and others argued that this idea has been floating around for a decade, I suppose implying that we had gotten plenty of notice.  But an idea floating around in the ether is far different from a concrete proposal, and a week is too little time to really digest such a significant change to one of our largest assets.

The proposal suggested that the city retain ownership of the zoo property but that the zoological society manage day-to-day zoo operations and assume ownership of the animals.  The city would pay an annual flat fee (adjusted for inflation) to the zoological society for managing the zoo, and the society would pick up expenses beyond that.

As I reviewed the proposal, I kept thinking of possible problems (that’s what I do when I review city proposals — I look at them very critically and try to find holes or problems or unintended consequences that need to be fixed; blame it on the lawyer in me).  I was pleased that almost every concern was addressed. Continue reading

Santa Fe Trail Officially Opens

Nancy Visser with the Dallas Morning News provides an update on a great new amenity in East Dallas: “Santa Fe Trail Opens in East Dallas with Legwork to Come.”

The city laid the groundwork by building the trail, but like the Katy Trail, it’ll be the friends groups that take the Santa Fe Trail to the next level. The surrounding community, the Santa Fe Trail Neighborhood Association and Crime Watch, and the Friends of the Santa Fe Trail are working together to make this a clean, safe trail. My hat’s off to them for adopting this new trail to make it a great asset for East Dallas.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep pushing the city to put in stop lights/signs for traffic at Beacon and other major streets. Right now, there are no stop signs for cars, but there ARE stop signs for trail users, if you can believe that. I’ve never seen an SUV hit by a pedestrian, so that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

East Dallas Veloway is Getting Underway (Finally!)

Today, the Council is set to approve several items related to the East Dallas Veloway, which is East Dallas’ version of the Katy Trail, built along the old Santa Fe rail line.

I’m still trying to understand what has caused a year and a half delay, but from what I understand, it was related to problems coordinating with the Texas Department of Transportation (with whom we’re partnering on this).

Here’s the new schedule, below. I’ll update the timeline on the East Dallas Veloway page, but I’m also going to leave the “old” schedule up so we can keep track of shifts in the timeline.

Phase 2 (Randall Park south to I-30):
Feb. 2008 – Construction contract awarded
Apr. 2008 – Construction for phase 2 begins
Aug. 2009 – Construction for phase 2 completed

Phase 1 (Randall Park north to White Rock):
Feb. 2008 – Authorize construction contract w/TXDOT
Summer 2008 – Construction contract for phase 1 awarded
Fall 2009 – Construction for phase 1 completed

See my East Dallas Veloway page for a map.