The Snit List: Dirty Tricks at the Arboretum

Despite the claims of city officials who have heralded the recent adoption of a redevelopment plan for The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society (DABS) as a harmonic convergence of planning interests and neighborhood concerns, the city has seldom seen a down-and-dirtier campaign. Neighbors have been called “yapping dogs, ” DABS leaders “land grabbing developers of the monster that will not die. ” Even Ross Perot-God, how does he manage to do it?-has been inserted into the controversy.

How, you say, can a patch of petunias provoke such heated debate? Here’s what’s happening in the bloom and doom debacle:

●In protesting the Arboretum’s proposal to eliminate “Free Tuesdays” at the park, the People Against Arboretum Development passed out fliers alerting “friends against class discrimination” that poor and working-class people would be displaced, discouraged, and eventually eliminated from the entire White Rock Lake Park,

●The White Rock Preservation League raised the specter of dead birds, dead fish-in other words dead lakeside fun-if DABS con tinues to use pesticides. Opposition neighbor Claude McCollum charged that the Arboretum dumps pollutants into the lake via a secret pipe. (“Untrue, ” responds new DABS president Walter W. Durham. “There is no pipe, no pollution; more birds die here because more birds roost here”)

●Opposition forces have repeatedly called attention to the fact that several members of the Arboretum board don’t pay Dallas city taxesbecause they live in the Park Cities. Can residents of “The Bubble” lay legitimate claim to Dallas’s begonias?

●At a city council meeting where voices pro and con were al lowed to make themselves heard, one anti-DABS activist signed up to speak in favor of the master plan and its revised zoning changes, then took the microphone and blasted DABS instead.

●Ross Perot’s offer to donate some $8 million to the Arboretum drew opposition fire not because his generosity isn’t appreciated, you understand, but because of the strings attached. For starters, the gift specifies that the park be renamed, presumably for a Perot family member. Then there’s the matter of the trees he wanted the money to go for, which opposing environmentalists see as too many, too close to the shoreline, and too dependent on toxic fertilizers.

●A list of neighbors who ostensibly signed petitions opposing the zoning changes requested by DABS had a slightly fishy odor, pro factions alleged. Rumors were rampant that some of the signers were led to believe that the petition was in favor of the new plan only to find their names on a list decrying it.

The barbs continued to fly even after the city council agreed unanimously to allow the new zoning at the Arboretum park. Opposition forces could still be heard warning that if DABS takes control of arboretum and botanical development both within its sixty-six acres and along the White Rock shoreline, what comes next?

We don’t know, but we’re sure that someone will use his imagi nation for us.


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