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New Report Shows Growing Impact of Dallas’ Parks Building Boom

The Trust for Public Land's annual report shows that Dallas is the second best city in the state for parks access.
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An overhead view of Creekside Park, one of the many new green additions to the city of Dallas in recent years. Elizabeth Lavin

Later today, Mayor Eric Johnson will announce that Dallas jumped another five spots in the Trust for Public Land’s annual ranking of city park access. More Dallas residents have access to a park within a 10-minute walk from their home than all other Texas cities except for Plano, which has long been atop the state’s rankings. We’re 38th in the country, which is up from 54th in 2019.

About 74 percent of residents now live within that 10-minute radius from a park. Our median park size is 7.8 acres, more than 2 acres above the national median. Much of the credit for this growth goes to the Trust’s Texas chapter, which has become a critical component of policy, advocacy, and execution in building out parks big and small throughout the city.

Last year’s splashiest addition was Big Cedar Wilderness, a 282-acre spread near Joe Pool Lake that had been owned by Liberty Bankers Life Insurance and was donated to the Trust. Trails for hiking and mountain biking snake through the pecan, oak, juniper, and ash trees. But the smaller initiatives have an outsized impact on park access, building the types of neighborhood green space that attract families and connect neighborhoods.

The Trust teamed with Dallas ISD, nonprofit Texas Trees Foundation, and the city to rebuild school playgrounds and tear down their fences so they could be used by the community after hours. Mayor Johnson directed the Trust to analyze all 2,800 city-owned parcels and figure out five that would be good locations for a park. The winning parcels are all in communities that didn’t have access to a park within a 10-minute walk, which included North Dallas, Pleasant Grove, Far East Dallas, Lake Highlands, and the Kleburg neighborhood of southern Dallas.

Mayor Mike Rawlings was one of the first mayors in the nation to sign his name to the Trust’s “10-Minute Walk to a Park” campaign, and Johnson has continued the momentum. Parks received $345 million of the recent $1.25 billion bond package, which includes new parkland, rec centers, and amenities.

We actually score a bit low on amenities, and the Trust dings us for our below-average amount of dog parks, rec centers, and playgrounds. Which they’ve dinged us for in the past. But the interesting thing is looking back to 2021, in the throes of COVID, when the Trust called out Dallas for furloughing 235 parks employees and expressed concern that park funding would be an immediate casualty of declining budgets.

Now, in 2024, the results show the opposite. Dallas continued to invest in its green infrastructure and landed some significant federal funding for ambitious projects, such as Southern Gateway Park over Interstate 35, and is finding ways to put smaller parks in neighborhoods that need them.

Plano, meanwhile, ranked 16th in the nation, and we still have plenty parts of town that are hotter than they need to be because of the urban heat island effect. We still have work to do, but Dallas is steadily growing one of its most critical public amenities.

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Matt Goodman

Matt Goodman

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Matt Goodman is the online editorial director for D Magazine. He's written about a surgeon who killed, a man who…
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