Docs suggest Arboretum, city had long planned on Winfrey Point parking




Posted on May 25, 2012 at 10:24 PM

Updated Saturday, May 26 at 10:41 AM

DALLAS - It was rush hour Friday night, but you'd never know it standing on the hill on White Rock Lake's east side, overlooking the water with the Dallas skyline in the distance. It's a little slice of serenity.

"Winfrey Point is a very special place," said Ted Barker, who lives just a few yards away.

This corner of White Rock Lake has a future that isn't quite clear. But it's recent past now is.

"It's already been surveyed," Barker said, walking through the field that sparked a giant controversy in early May.

That's when his brother, Hal, submitted an open records request to the city. He wanted to learn more about a plan to mow that field and use it as an overflow parking lot, when the nearby arboretum's own lots were full.

Hal received maps and proposals and charts that seemed to show there was much more than mowing on the table. City money had been spent on draw up concepts for Winfrey Point's future. Consultants proposed paving over part of Winfrey Point, possibly moving new youth ball fields, cutting new roads and building a parking garage.

On a memo posted on the Dallas Arboretum's website this week, the arboretum said it was a misconception that they planned to build a parking garage at Winfrey Point.

"The concept for a parking garage at Winfrey Point was never shown to the Arboretum, nor to the Park Board or city Council members, and according to the Park Department, was rejected when their consultants showed it to them," the memo read.

But through another open records request filled Thursday, Hal Barker uncovered more about the origins of the Winfrey Point's garage.

In an e-mail in August 2010, the arboretum president laid out a plan for arboretum parking at Winfrey Point to Parks and Recreation Department Director Paul Dyer. She wrote about enhancing the area, with a possible parking facility that could be disguised.

Barker also received handwritten notes from three meetings that followed, between the arboretum president and top parks department employees discussing the garage proposal, how to relocate ball fields, how to seek input and support from the community.

"There's no transparency," Ted Barker said. "This shows what we feel to be backroom deals."

He said neither he, his brother, or any of the neighborhoods that would be impacted, were consulted.

The documents also include a warning that Ted will go crazy over the proposal.

"I'm on their list of people to steer clear of," Ted said.

The arboretum and the city released this statement late Friday:

"The Dallas Arboretum and the Dallas Park and Recreation Department have been working together for many years to try and find solutions to the parking problems at the Arboretum and around White Rock Lake.

As in any business process, public or private, the consideration of a number of ideas prior to determining the best solution is necessary.

Discussions from 2010, along with consultant studies commissioned by both the Arboretum and the Park and Recreation Department identified multiple concepts for parking.

We are committed to continue to explore ideas to resolve the parking, circulation, and visitor experience enhancements around White Rock Lake."

Hal Barker disagrees with the word "discussions."

"If these are just conceptual drawings, they've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to create them," he said.

"This is what the city produced for me under open records. This is all they have. This is it. This is what they plan to do," Barker said. "And I'm not going to let it happen."