A Look Back at The Year in Which Dallas Made A Real Effort At Public Space.

Heading in 2012, the plan for Dallas' future — and, perhaps more important, the plan for its green spaces' futures — started to take shape.

The powers that be wanted to start making concerted efforts toward increase the profiles of public-use spaces around town, and they began making smarter use of the spaces the city already had, too. Yes, with the help of both public and private funding this year, Dallas has indeed taken some big strides this year. Dull concrete blocks of downtown landscapes have been completely re-imagined, and old spaces lost to time have been revitalized and brought up to modernity.

In other words: It's been a pretty good year in Dallas.

The big story this year and in this regard, of course, is Klyde Warren Park. There's really nothing quite like adding 5.2 acres of brand new park space to a downtown area to really make a splash. But building the new park space, which revitalizes an area of urban blight that cut Uptown off from downtown Dallas, was genius for several reasons.

Most important? It's a showpiece. Klyde Warren Park is something people talk about on pretty much a daily basis these days. It also provides a nice visual connection between two of Dallas most prominent neighborhoods — areas that, though they were never really disconnected, sure felt as if they were. But those few acres of park in between the two areas — no longer a recessed freeway underpass — now almost force you to feel the connection. And that's important, for sure. The park, after all, draws people in from all over the city; It's a gorgeous space with a lot of thoughtful design touches and enough multi-purpose spaces within it to keep people coming back for a myriad of reasons.

But Klyde Warren Park is just the tip of the new Dallas greenspace iceberg, really. Though overshadowed somewhat by the deck park's opening, Belo Garden Park also opened up earlier this year and represents a change in the right direction. This space was a former parking lot that the city bought, and, in conjunction with Belo, turned into a 1.7-acre park space. The park was filled with native plant and tree species, and acts as a quiet escape in the middle of the bustle of the city.

And yet this year saw even more smart public space development throughout the city. You might remember our report about the delayed Santa Fe Trestle Trail, but what ever became of it? Well, it finally got it's act together and is now open for public use. You can now ride or walk across the trail's historic bridge, which was originally built in 1879, too.

Speaking of updating old space: In August, Heritage Village opened up the city's first, “food truck park.” The park has hosted trucks such as Cool Haus, Easy Slider, Nammi and the Butcher's Son in its revamped space.

Meanwhile, the AT&T Performing Arts Center, which also this year introduced ordinances for food trucks, trotted out ping pong tables earlier this year in an effort to capitalize on the get-outdoors craze going on throughout the city. As with Klyde Warren Park's tables, rentals of paddles and balls are free with ID.

And, hey, it looks like you might even be able to safely ride your bike to all of these parks now. This year, the city began taking strides toward correcting its record on cycling. Smart move. An important factor in getting people out to public spaces is making sure they have lots of ways to get there — especially in one piece. We covered the city's new bike lane markers in depth back in October, but now things have been taken a step farther. The city has now passed an ordinance that buffs up cyclist rights on the road. In conjunction with the new bike lanes, motorized vehicles are now required to get out of the lane to pass a bicyclist — instead of just squeezing by the bikes as they may have in the past. You can now be fined as a driver for threatening behavior against a cyclist and, in an oddly specific ordinance, for throwing things at them. The fines start at $300 and increase to $500 if there is physical damage caused to a rider.

Maybe it's not all much, but considering where Dallas started out at in 2012, all these things — the parks, the bike lanes, the new, green-oriented regulations — are certainly steps towards a brighter, greener future in the city.

I mean, who doesn't want to spend an afternoon working in the sun in the park? Or riding your bike downtown to play ping pong and catch up with friends before seeing a show in Deep Ellum?

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