Marsha Jackson at Shingle Mountain

Nature and Environment

Southern Dallas Celebrated a Win Over Shingle Mountain, But the War Isn’t Over

A dispatch from a night on Choate Road near the Trinity River.

On May 30, people from all areas of Dallas gathered at the foot of Shingle Mountain for an outdoor celebration on Choate Road, near the Trinity River. The event, “Together We Can Move Mountains,” featured great food, music, a dance performance, and a short speech by mayoral candidate Scott Griggs. (His challenger, state Rep. Eric Johnson, was invited but did not attend.) To understand the nature of the celebration, and why Shingle Mountain is a problem that won’t easily go away, we have to start with Marsha Jackson’s story.

Twenty-four years ago Marsha Jackson bought a brick home in a semi-rural area with enough acreage for her daughters to board their horses and practice barrel racing and roping. “This was a great green area,” she says, with pastures “filled with pottery, plants, and greens sold at Farmer’s market and other stores. It was very peaceful.”

In January 2018, a shingle recycling business, Blue Star, interrupted her peace by opening an operation next door. The pile of shingles, stacked and processed out in the open, grew and grew, with toxic dust covering the inside and outside of her home. She complained to code enforcement; she complained to her council member. When she had finally had enough—and the piles had morphed into an enormous “Shingle Mountain” —she joined forces with Downwinders at Risk and even started a new group, Southern Sector Rising, with Temeckia Derrough, Stephanie Timko, Miriam Fields, Justina Walford, and Sister Patricia Ridgley.

It would take until March 2019 for state and city officials to finally take action.

City attorneys requested a temporary shutdown, which was signed by Judge Gena Slaughter on March 21. That halted work at Blue Star. But it doesn’t explain what will become of the motionless mountain and foothills of finely ground shingles that remain on premises. According to Downwinders at Risk director Jim Schermbeck, “The restraining order is temporary only if they fulfill the requirements of the judge’s order, which they clearly haven’t. It’s 50-50 which comes first—the next hearing or the bankruptcy announcement.”

Long story short, the “celebration” on May 30 should be seen relative to the bigger picture. Work at Shingle Mountain stopped due to the concerted efforts of concerned citizens, but fundamentally it’s a city of Dallas zoning problem; a problem that will require reform at the policy-making level.

What, then, were people celebrating at the event? They were celebrating the moxie of Marsha Jackson in staring down Shingle Mountain and the power of people from all backgrounds to come together to work for common cause.

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