It took Dallas years to clean up Shingle Mountain. That towering public health hazard formerly stood in the southern Dallas neighborhood of Floral Farms as an egregious example of a city-wide pattern in which industrial polluters are concentrated near low-income communities whose residents are mostly Black or Hispanic.
Now, Floral Farms residents and community activists are wondering how long it will take Dallas to turn what they’ve called a “national disgrace” into a “national model for justice.” And they say turning the 4.3 acres that once contained a shingle dump into a neighborhood park is a good place to start.
On Wednesday, the Dallas City Council will vote on whether to acquire the land. It won’t cost the city anything, per the deal Dallas made with the property’s landowners to clean up the mess. And that’s all the council will really decide Wednesday: whether to acquire the property for “public use.” But it would mark the first steps toward righting a whole lot of wrong in Floral Farms, as advocates for the new park put it.
Those advocates will call on the City Council to acquire the land and turn it into a park. Neighbors in southern Dallas and Oak Cliff want justice. They want a park, and an end to the discriminatory zoning that puts shingle dumps right next to neighborhoods. They have a plan for the area. The firm HKS Architects is designing the park itself. Yet, as the Dallas Morning News’ Sharon Grigsby argued a couple weeks ago, the city has to act first if anything is going to change. The industrial activity that’s continuing right next door makes this abundantly clear.
On Wednesday, the City Council can decide to start the process, although as of right now a park would certainly seem to be incompatible with the industry happening literally next to it. What may or may not be an encouraging sign is that the city is looking to develop a broader plan of its own for the area, one that would “create a detailed future development vision and comprehensive implementation program informed by inclusive community engagement through the combined lenses of social equity, environmental sustainability and economic vitality.” (Former DMN columnist Robert Wilonsky, who wrote the first story on Shingle Mountain several years ago, notes on Twitter that there already is a land use plan in place for the area.) Community activists are skeptical, with justification.
While Shingle Mountain may be gone, Floral Farms’ fight is far from over.