A couple photos that made the rounds online last week show two cars whose drivers appear to have gotten a little off-track near White Rock Lake.
Two cars seen yesterday driving on the bike path at White Rock Lake (via R/Kalkaline) pic.twitter.com/060Y0M7Btb
— Dallas Texas TV (@DallasTexasTV) March 28, 2021
This is likely a pretty stressful experience for those drivers who accidentally find themselves on narrow trails intended for people. It’s just as unpleasant for the people who are out for a stroll or a jog or a bike ride. Pedestrians in this city are generally well-advised to be on the lookout for cars, but they shouldn’t have to worry that much about vehicles on designated trails. (Nobody was hurt here.)
According to the parks department, you can blame some of the confusion in those photos on a construction project on the east side of the lake, near the south side of the Arboretum at East Lawther Drive and Garland Road.
“As a result, posted signage, hazard cones, a 1-ton boulder, and portable barricades have been installed indicating not to drive through the park,” says Andrea Hawkins, marketing and media relations manager with the Dallas Parks and Recreation Department. “We certainly want to make sure parkgoers are safe on the roadways and trails. Staff has re-assessed some projects and put in an emergency work order for the construction of a curb.”
The parks department described this as a “onetime occurrence,” although drivers have long mistakenly found their way onto the trails at White Rock. At one time, a roadway circled the entire lake. Today, on the lake’s east side, barricades are placed to allow bike and foot traffic through while limiting where cars can go. “It’s all been done very strategically to keep people from cruising the lake but also to allow access in as many points as possible,” says Maria Hasbany, District 9’s park board representative.
Maintenance and utility crews and other workers in vehicles sometimes need to get through those barricades, and the aging gates themselves aren’t especially hard to jimmy open. “We’re systematically finding the money to replace them all,” Hasbany says.
When cars do wind up on the bike and walking paths, it’s almost always accidental and circumstantial, she says: Somebody left a gate unlocked or open and a driver failed to realize their mistake until it was too late. These aren’t joyriders or intentional off-roaders. There are exceptions, of course, and Hasbany has in the past heard reports of cars off-roading on parkland after snowstorms, possibly tempted by the prospect of, ahem, making powdered donuts. If you’re determined enough and know your car’s ground clearance, you could just hop the curb, never mind any barricades. But the street races and car takeovers that have been on the rise during the pandemic aren’t happening on the trails at White Rock Lake, she says.
Parkgoers can report open gates to 911 (it’s also a non-emergency line), which will get the information to nearby parks maintenance crews. That’s easier than giving directions to the driver rolling along the bike trail.