After receiving my graduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin, I moved to North Texas in 1989 when I took a job with American Airlines at their corporate office southwest of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. I rented an apartment in Irving so the commute wouldn’t be too bad. My neighborhood was a sea of apartment complexes, and my commute along State Highway 183 could be kindly described as ugly. There was hardly any sense of community. I missed Austin!
Running has always been an important part of my life and an escape for me, and I need a steady diet of nature and wide-open spaces, so it wasn’t long until I gravitated toward White Rock Lake. A group of us established a routine of car-pooling to the Bath House Cultural Center every Sunday to take a run around the lake and grab breakfast at Barbec’s on Garland Road. I always loved the neighborhood surrounding the start and end of our runs. The awesome collection of eclectic homes right on the park, in the midst of all the big trees and the laidback vibe, reminded me of Austin. How wonderful to be able to walk to the lake!
I liked to imagine that one day I would own one of the houses along my regular route. I would admire my favorites as I ran by. I came to learn this neighborhood was called the Peninsula. While the homes on the west side of the lake were indeed impressive, they were mostly gated off from each other and didn’t seem to spill into the park as intimately as those in the Peninsula.
My original running group met faithfully for about three years, and then life took over. My career took me to New York City, San Francisco, Indianapolis, Austin (again), and then back to Dallas. Everywhere I lived, I was drawn to eclectic, laidback neighborhoods by parks and water. While in Austin I restored a neat bungalow on 9th street. I loved being a short walk from Town Lake, the proximity of funky bars, restaurants, and shops, and the unpretentious neighbors.
When I returned to Dallas, I bought an elegant old home in the Stevens Park section of Oak Cliff. I loved the rolling hills and mature growth trees, as well as the park views. I resumed my weekend pilgrimages to White Rock Lake. When my job moved to Allen, the commute became a strain, and I made the ill-fated decision to buy an 85-acre farm north of McKinney in Blue Ridge.
What was I thinking? I was too young to live in such a remote area with nothing to do, on a substantial plot that took a lot of time to keep up. I missed running at the lake (although my speed improved while trying to avoid the aggressive nipping of farm dogs). When my job relocated to Dallas, in 2005, I decided to find a place in the city at which to spend the workweek. I gravitated toward the east side of the lake, settled on a neglected but fun little bungalow five blocks from the lake, and fixed it up.
In 2008 I was fortunate enough to pounce on my current house on a quiet cul-de-sac actually in the Peninsula. I remember stopping at the water station on the hike-and-bike trail directly below the house hundreds of times over the years, as it was a half-mile from the end of my routine route around the lake.
Even though I was only a few blocks from my previous house, I almost immediately noticed a difference from my old neighborhood. People in the Peninsula engage with each other, and most are fierce protectors of the lake. I love the annual block party, the Fourth of July parade, and (my favorite) the Halloween gathering at the public tennis court at East Lake Highlands and Peninsula drives. Parents and their costumed kids show up for fun games, good food, and a costume contest. Afterwards everyone goes trick-or-treating, with Biscayne Boulevard being the favored destination, due to the many awesome decorations, yard parties, and great treats.
My understanding is that my street, Waterview Road, was actually part of its own neighborhood association (originally with some awful, racist deed restrictions) until the 1980s, when it joined the Peninsula Neighborhood Association. Today PNA is extremely active and focused on preserving the lake and preventing commercial intrusion, as well as driving an increased sense of community for its members. In addition, the neighbors have an awesome informal on-line crime watch where we alert each other real time to issues. There is very little crime in the Peninusla.
These days I often look at the world through the eyes of my 8-year-old son, and I realize our neighborhood is a great place to grow up. The number of children in the Peninsula has probably tripled since I moved to here. Kids ride bikes all around the neighborhood and have all kinds of adventures in the park. They hunt for bird nests, fish, build forts, and generally enjoy our wildlife oasis in the middle of Dallas.
I love coming home. My neighborhood is a destination that I never tire of.
George Maney has lived in the Peninsula since 2008.