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Nature & Environment

How Ned Fritz and Others Fought for the Trinity River

Fifty years ago, Dallas killed a plan that would have turned the Trinity River into a barge canal. The journalist Laray Polk recounted that history in our March issue.
| |Image Courtesy of Fritz Family
Ned Fritz
Family Tree: Ned Fritz helped kill the canal. Fritz family

Laray Polk is one of the more interesting people I know. I met her about 15 years ago, after she’d sent a series of emails to the magazine that were more literate than much of the correspondence we receive. I would come to learn that Laray is a writer. In 2013, she co-authored a book with Noam Chomsky that bears the cheerful title Nuclear War and Environmental Catastrophe. More recently, her writing has focused on a remote South Pacific island called Olohega, which was stolen from its inhabitants in 1860 by a U.S. sea captain who appears to have claimed ownership without even the common courtesy of having paid the place a visit. Laray’s original research may yet change the history of the island.

She’s also an artist. Here’s a text I got from her late last year, about a multi-media show she was mounting at two SMU galleries: “This week is the install. I will be moving 600 lbs of White Rock to one gallery and bags of Bolivar Peninsula sediments to the other.”

And Laray once owned a golf course. Or her husband did. He is Jack Mims, also an artist, and his family for many years operated Sunset Golf Club in Grand Prairie, likely the first integrated course in North Texas. That’s the conclusion we came to in 2019, when we published a story about the wild characters who once held court in its clubhouse. 

Oh, one more thing: the other day Laray told me that her neighbors have given over their backyard to a llama. She lives in a part of southern Dallas, not far from the Trinity River levees, where such things happen.

All of which is why she was the perfect person to write about an important anniversary for the river. Fifty years ago this month, the citizens of Dallas went to the polls and made it plain: they did not want to pay taxes so that a small group of Dallas industrialists, aided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, could straighten and dredge the river, turning it into a canal to Galveston Bay. Can you imagine how Dallas might look today if we had razed the Trinity Forest and turned that land into a basin for barges to dock? Laray set out, partly, to answer that question in our March issue. Her story is online today.

In 2009, KERA produced a documentary titled Living With the Trinity that centered on a man named Ned Fritz and a ragtag group who helped win that vote five decades ago. At just under 60 minutes, the film is a fascinating look at our city’s history. It will screen at the Dallas Angelika on April 6, with a panel discussion following. Details were still being locked down as we went to press with this issue. Ned Fritz Legacy has partnered with KERA to present the Living With the Trinity documentary. Reserve your spot at this link. I hope to see you there.  

Author

Tim Rogers

Tim Rogers

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Tim is the editor of D Magazine, where he has worked since 2001. He won a National Magazine Award in…
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