Neighbors take Dallas Arboretum to court over parking




Posted on May 1, 2012 at 11:10 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 1 at 11:12 PM

Should the Dallas Arboretum use the Blackland Prairie for a parking lot?

DALLAS — A battle of preservation versus parking is brewing in East Dallas.

The Dallas Arboretum is square in the middle of the fight, and this time it is not on the side of nature.

Neighbors are taking the Arboretum to court over its plan to park cars on a grassy area of White Rock Lake's Winfrey Point, home to ball fields, wildflowers, and a living classroom for 8th grade students at St. John's Episcopal School.

"It's awesome to have a relic of what used to be," said one of the 8th grade students. "This is the kind of land that stretched from Canada to Texas."

They've been learning about a remnant of a delicate ecosystem called the Blackland Prairie. Thousands of years ago it spanned millions of acres; now it's down to thousands.

The students at St. John's used a tiny swath of what's left as an 8th grade science project. They are trying to rid the biodiverse area of two non-native plants. They produced a brochure to educate the neighborhood about their efforts.

Now the land they've been studying is in danger.

"This area's really important to us, and we're really disappointed that the Arboretum is going to take this rare prairie and use it as a parking lot," said another student.

The City of Dallas approved a plan for the Dallas Arboretum to temporarily park cars on the Blackland Prairie during the upcoming Dale Chihuly art exhibit, when huge crowds are anticipated.

But neighbors have learned the plan isn't as temporary as initially thought. The city has announced the Arboretum will manage Winfrey Park parking for the foreseeable future.

One neighbor filed a temporary restraining order, which means the parking arrangement is on hold.

Because of the legal action, Arboretum president Mary Brinegar could not speak in depth about the controversy. She released this statement:

"Given the Arboretum's experience in parking coordination and management, the Arboretum is an ideal partner in this endeavor."

She also said she would continue to work with the community.

Alexandra Elliott, whose son plays Little League on the Winfrey Point ball fields, disagrees.

"I feel like they should be the advocates for preserving, and I feel like there's so many parking lots already that to take an area that's supposed to be preserved and taken care of, I don't think it's necessary," she said.

The 8th grade students agree.

"It's just really disappointing," one of them said.