When my brand-new bride first spotted the 1960s-era, ranch-style house on a quiet street in Merriman Park and declared it to be her “dream home,” I wasn’t quite as enthused as she was. Having “batched it” since the end of my first marriage a decade earlier, I had visions of us moving into a loft in downtown Dallas. You know: brick walls, exposed air ducts, shiny hardwood floors — no muss, no fuss. My bride’s first response was, “What would our three dogs do?” And then: “Get over it; you’re not a bachelor anymore.”
Today, 16 years later, I have to admit that she turned out to be right about the home. Our stone and wood house with the big, Spanish-style courtyard doors on Town North Drive is comfortably rambling and unique. As for the Merriman Park neighborhood it sits in, you could scarcely ask for a more pleasant place to live.
Merriman Park is one half of the 60-plus-year-old Merriman Park/University Manor development. (The “line” separating Merriman Park from its slightly older sibling, University Manor, runs between Town North and Arboreal drives.) The neighborhood is distinguished for its wide, bike- and pedestrian-friendly streets; its mix of traditional bungalows and mid-century modern homes; and its abundance of stately, mature trees (ash, live oak, cedar, pecan). Picture the neighborhood on TV’s The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet — only with a lot more trees — and you begin to get the idea.
Although we’re conveniently located off busy Northwest Highway, just east of Central Expressway and a stone’s throw from the White Rock DART station, the MPUM neighborhood has a distinctly bucolic feel. White Rock Creek courses it way next to Walling Lane. A family of squawking cranes nests high in one neighbor’s tree. It’s not unusual to see raccoons, opossums — even the occasional coyote — roaming the streets after dark.
It’s really the people, though, who make MPUM an interesting place to live. They’re a blend of longtime homeowners — some have been here almost since the development went up — and newer residents, many of them young professional couples, with and without children. Most days the neighbors can be seen pushing their baby strollers or escorting their dogs around the block or just taking a walk, late in the afternoon or early in the morning.
One of them is Fran, who lives next door to us. An elderly native of West Virginia, Fran moved into Merriman Park with her late husband, Marshall, in 1968. Lean, spunky, and independent, she rises early and usually can be seen out walking before the sun comes up. “I always feel safe” on these walks, she tells me. She also cooks up a mean plate of lemon bars, which she brings over to us as thanks for watching her cat, Buddy, while she takes her annual three-day trip to the Guadalupe River with her longtime “girlfriends.”
In Merriman Park/University Manor, such displays of neighborliness are common. During a fierce thunderstorm in the fall of 2014, when winds reached as high as 90 miles per hour, many of the development’s trees were hit hard, their trunks and branches crashing down onto rooftops or falling into the streets. After that happened, parties of six or eight neighbors roamed from house to house, chain-sawing the trees into manageable chunks, helping to slowly clear the roads. When I asked Matt, a chainsaw-wielding contractor from the next street over, why he was doing it, he replied, “I dunno. Hero complex, I guess.”
On another occasion, Faux Marble, our beloved and brilliant Australian shepherd, escaped our fenced yard through an open gate and took off ambling up the street. My bride, fearing that Faux would find her way to Northwest Highway, was panic-stricken. After hours of futile searching, we finally got a call from the microchip company — fortunately, Faux had been micro-chipped years earlier — saying that our errant Aussie had been found. A University Manor neighbor (and Stanley Korshak saleswoman) named Ann, it seems, had corralled Faux when she wandered into Ann’s yard, about four blocks away. Ann drove the dog in her car to her veterinarian, who found the microchip and alerted the chip company. She went to such generous lengths, Ann would tell us later, because she has dogs of her own and realizes how losing one would feel.
The neighborhood also has “official” mechanisms to ensure order and tranquility. Through social media, including the “Nextdoor” email service, residents are alerted to news and the latest developments — from a missing pooch to the city’s schedule for mosquito spraying. The MPUM association’s Beautification Committee maintains the colorful flowers planted in the three median entrances at Larmanda Street and Town North and Fenton drives. Holidays are celebrated in the neighborhood the old-fashioned way — plenty of candy at Halloween, light displays at Christmas, U.S. flags on national holidays — and security is always top of mind. Crime in the area is minimal, thanks partly to the area Crime Watch, the Dallas Police Department’s Expanded Neighborhood Patrol, and a private Volunteers in Patrol program.
So, do I ever regret eschewing that downtown loft for Merriman Park/University Manor? Not really. Okay, maybe once in awhile—like when the tree roots push down into the sewer line, causing a $12,000 plumbing bill. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen all that often.
Glenn Hunter is editor of D CEO magazine and has lived in Merriman Park since 2000.