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Q&A: How Dallas Is Adding Parks By Going Small

Matt Goodman
By |
An aerial view of a new playground built by the Cool Schools program. Jose Fontanillas / Courtesy of the Texas Trees Foundation

Klyde Warren Park has become the bellwether for urban park developments across the country, particularly as cities try to hide their highways under decks and caps. Deck parks are happening in Little Rock, Arkansas and Atlanta, Georgia. This type of development is happening closer to home, in McKinney. It’s even happening again closer to home, in Oak Cliff over Interstate 35E and near downtown and South Dallas over Interstate 30.  

It’s a big infrastructure investment that attracts headlines and public dollars. Harder to fund—and harder to find—are the small decisions that lead to bigger changes. Like how Dallas jumped 10 other cities in a ranking of how many of its residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park.

These are smaller efforts targeted directly where people live, community investments where folks can walk their dog after work or throw a ball around with their kid on a Sunday. That energy is spreading across the city, particularly in southern Dallas and Oak Cliff.

“These don’t need to be 5-acre parcels,” says Arun Agarwal, president of the Dallas Park Board. “We see pocket parks in Manhattan. Why not here?”

The nonprofit Trust for Public Land is the entity that tracks how cities are providing greenspace for all their residents. This year, 73 percent of Dallasites now have a park within a 10-minute walk from their home. That’s up from 53 percent about a decade ago. At 43rd, we’re now ranked two spaces below Austin, good enough for third in the state. (Plano, where 80 percent of its residents live within a 10-minute walk, is the highest in Texas at 16th.)

Mayor Eric Johnson has made these small-scale investments a priority of his second term. His last state of the city address directed staff to put together a list of all the city-owned vacant properties to explore the potential for new parks or affordable housing. That list identified more than 300 parcels, the vast majority of which are below Interstate 30 in southern Dallas and Oak Cliff, neighborhoods that have long been overlooked for park infrastructure.

There are major projects underway in Oak Cliff. South Oak Cliff Renaissance Park replaced a 2-acre illegal dump across from South Oak Cliff High School in 2021. The Trust for Public Land’s Texas branch is overseeing the overhaul of the Five Mile Creek corridor, which will include two more parks and 14 miles of trail that will stretch east from the Westmoreland DART Station into the forthcoming 50-mile LOOP trailhead in the Trinity Forest.

Those are big projects. Mayor Johnson recently created a volunteer position he called the “greening czar.” He awarded it to the philanthropist and Container Store co-founder Garrett Boone, who has spent much of his retirement investing in green spaces across Dallas. (He’s one of the Trust for Public Land’s largest local funders.)

He’ll be charged with identifying other locations for parks that can help more residents live within a 10-minute walk from one. The mayor recently directed the city manager to use $1.25 million in federal COVID relief dollars to kick things off.

Boone chatted with D Magazine about his new (volunteer) job. The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.


Arlington’s Own Abraham Alexander is Blazing Trails

Zac Crain
By |
Abraham Alexander
Alexander is still on the rise, now performing at ACL festival and on tour with the Lumineers. Check out our June feature to find out how he started. Elizabeth Lavin

When you profile someone whose star is on the rise, you can’t be too surprised when that continues on its rise pretty much as soon as you turn in your final draft. (And you hope that it doesn’t go the other way, for everyone’s sake.)

This has proved to be the case with Fort Worth singer-songwriter Abraham Alexander, who I spent a little time with just before he released his fantastic debut album, SEA/SONS. In the weeks since I wrote about Alexander for our June issue, he was added to the ACL Festival lineup and announced a U.K/European tour supporting labelmates the Lumineers. And on Wednesday, the legendary guitar maker Gibson named him its first Marquee Artist, throwing its considerable resources behind him.

Last night, he kicked off a three-show run at The Kessler in Oak Cliff. Tonight is sold out but as of this writing there were a few tickets left for Saturday night’s gig.

If you miss it, I wouldn’t worry too much. You are going to have plenty of chances to catch Alexander again; he’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Just to bigger venues maybe.

My profile, from the June issue of the magazine, is online today. Get to know our soon-to-be star.

Ken Paxton Will Defend Himself Against Major Texas Lawyers. Dick DeGuerin and Rusty Hardin are names you grow up knowing in Houston. DeGuerin defended politicians like Tom DeLay and Kay Bailey Hutchison, along with other headline-grabbers like Robert Durst and David Koresh. Hardin was involved in the defense for the Arthur Anderson accounting firm during the Enron scandal. He defended Wade Boggs in a harassment suit and navigated the complicated estate of millionaire J. Howard Marshall during a conflict with his widow, Anna Nicole Smith. “This is the legislature saying, ‘This isn’t just some case, this is an unusual, historic case,’” a Dallas appellate lawyer told the Texas Tribune. The attorney general has a fight ahead of him.

Austin Bridge and Road Is Leaving Joppa. The company will close its asphalt batch plant in the southern Dallas neighborhood on June 26 amid a complicated roundabout process that Sharon Grigsby works to unfurl. It’s worth your time.

DART Train Strikes Scooter Rider. WFAA has some fun with this one without a byline—“the scooter driver was trying to race across the tracks in order to beat the approaching train, which they appear to have failed in doing”—and the scooter rider was hospitalized. DART wouldn’t go that far with the details on the record, only saying the person was riding unsafely. It shows there will always be a human element to riding these things, and that’s something the city must plan for.

Teenagers Arrested in Violent Oak Lawn-Area Robberies. Three of the kids are 16 and one is 15. They had guns and held up people and businesses, sometimes attacking their victims. The incidents happened between May 3 and May 28 and they’ve been charged with aggravated robbery.


In Our June Issue, Choose Your Own Adventure

Kathy Wise
By |
Mountain biking is just one of the many activities you will find in our guide to some of the best summer destinations. Courtesy Rancho Cacachilas

You may wonder why a photo of a Yosemite waterfall is on the cover of our June travel issue. That’s because we wanted to be clear: the heat is coming. We are all going to need an escape.

To give you some options this summer (or fall, or winter, or spring), we undertook six incredible adventures, from Montana to Mexico, that are pretty much a direct flight or drive away. We think they’re notable because they are the kind of trips that give you a chance to stop and wonder at this world that we don’t stop and wonder at enough.

And don’t worry, if skeet shooting, fly-fishing, ATV driving, mountain biking, and mule riding aren’t your thing, these are also places where you can simply do some stargazing, bourbon tasting, cheesemaking, and spa relaxing.

Don’t feel like going anywhere? Get some banana leaves and a pork shoulder from El Rio Grande to make a simple version of kalua pork, steam some rice, boil some macaroni for a big bowl of Hawaiian macaroni salad, and then mix up a batch of what I’ll be serving in my backyard, the Outcast of the Islands.

(In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 2 ounces Italian gin, 1 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice, and 1/4 ounce orgeat syrup. Shake. Pour over ice in a wine glass, top with ginger ale, and finish it with a splash of Angostura bitters.)

Put Abraham Alexander’s SEA/SONS on the Sonos, pull out the June issue of the mag, read Zac Crain’s profile of the musician and his musings on his trip to Montage Big Sky, and let yourself be transported.

Or just read the travel feature here.

Abbott Names New Interim AG. Gov. Greg Abbott named Fort Worth lawyer John Scott as interim attorney general while Ken Paxton faces impeachment. Scott previously served as the state’s interim Secretary of State during the 2022 primaries and midterm elections and had been a lobbyist during the regular legislative session this year. He quit the day the House voted on Paxton’s impeachment. The Senate trial is expected to begin before August 28, and until the matter is resolved, Paxton is suspended from his office.

Fate of Property Tax Relief Still Up in the Air. Not much has changed in the game of legislative chicken over property tax relief being played between Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and House Speaker Dade Phelan. However, Abbott released a statement Wednesday praising the House for passing exactly what he asked, and Patrick responded that Abbott“seems misinformed about the roles of the executive and legislative branches of government.” Basically, they’re still in a fight about it, and a repeat special session seems kind of likely.

Suspect in Preston Center Shooting Found. Dallas Police said Wednesday that Antwon Osborne, 17, was arrested last week in Nevada after he allegedly shot a security guard at Preston Center West on May 19. Osborne is suspected of being the person security video depicts fighting with Adalberto Santiago and then shooting him before fleeing in a gold sedan. Santiago later died of his wounds.

Juvenile Department Director Sues Dallas County. Dallas County Juvenile Department director Darryl Beatty filed suit against the County this week in a bid to avoid giving commissioners redacted records the Commissioners Court seeks regarding how children are confined while in the department’s custody. Commissioners are asking for redacted observation sheets that should explain how long children are confined to their rooms, and the lawsuit argues that the request is unlawful. A recent report by an advocacy group found that children in Dallas County are detained 95 days before the case is resolved, longer than the national standards.


The Senior PGA Championship Was a Glimpse of the Potential in Frisco

Shawn Shinneman
By Shawn Shinneman |
The 18th is one of Fields Ranch East's signature holes. (Photo by Ryan Lochhead/PGA of America)

I couldn’t help but walk around PGA Frisco dreaming of a Ryder Cup. 

I had visions of massive grandstands engulfing the tee box at the par-5 first hole. Young stars barely in preschool today darting match-winning long irons into the 18th green. I saw fans losing their minds, heard roars rolling through the hills.

The actual scenes unfolding in front of me last weekend were a bit tamer. If you had not heard, the PGA of America moved its national headquarters to Frisco last year, building it alongside a 510-room Omni hotel and two 18-hole golf courses, one of which—Fields Ranch East—will host some of the sport’s biggest events. That began last weekend, as the game’s elder statesman played one of their five majors, the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. The LPGA will play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship here in 2025 and 2031. The men come to town for the PGA Championship in 2027. There has even been talk of a Ryder Cup: the match-play, USA-versus-Europe team showdown that happens on American soil only once every four years. The unquestioned mecca of in-person golf.

That won’t be happening anytime soon. Because the PGA of America books out the venues so far in advance, 2041 is Frisco’s first shot at hosting the event. But even with the relatively modest crowds at the Senior PGA—things got livelier Saturday afternoon—you could see the potential for great things in Frisco.

Good Time, Not a Long Time, For Texas House Special Session. Gov. Greg Abbott called lawmakers back to chambers for a special session, which lasted exactly one day. The House bill to address the governor’s priority of property tax relief passed without increasing homestead exemptions, which was what Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wanted to see. And then the body adjourned. That means the Senate either backs the bill against the wishes of Patrick, or blink and likely force another special session.

Two North Texas 5th Graders Make it to Spelling Bee Quarterfinals. The kids, from Allen and Keller, made it another round in the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Tuesday. Faizan Zaki, of Allen, moved forward by nailing “kapparah” and “jointure” as well as properly identifying the definition of how to “corral” a herd. Brihasa Vederu, of Keller, got through with “pahoehoe” and “cuticle” and defined “corollary.”

Dallas Animal Services Still Navigating Ransomware Attack. The Dallas Municipal Court Building reopened this week, a little under a month since hackers accessed the city’s servers. The police department’s evidence retrieval system is again working, but Dallas Animal Service’s computer system was “totally crippled.” That tracks how animals navigated through the shelter, including medical information, intake data, and outcomes. That means everything is happening by hand. Want an animal? It’s best to go in person.

Local News

After Years of Advocacy in Dallas and Around Texas, the CROWN Act Becomes Law

Catherine Wendlandt
By |
After more than two years of advocacy across the state, Gov. Greg Abbott signed H.B. 567 into law over the weekend. Commonly known as the CROWN Act, the bill makes discrimination against natural hair and protective hairstyles illegal. ©Ricardo B. Brazziell/American Statesman

On March 22, WFAA reporter Tashara Parker stood before eight members of the Texas House of Legislature’s State Affairs committee in Austin, her hair swinging in a long braid behind her back. She had waited almost 11 hours to speak. At the podium, she asked the legislators to imagine “walking into work carrying the weight of an identity that was not your own.” That their natural hair—be it straight or textured, braided, in locks (also known as dreadlocks), or flat-ironed—was deemed “unprofessional.”  

The subject of Parker’s testimony, House Bill 567, would make such discrimination illegal.  

Standing for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” or CROWN, House Bill 567 would prevent discrimination against someone based on their hairstyle or hair texture “commonly or historically associated with race.” The bill overwhelmingly passed the State House of Representatives 143-5 April 13, and in the State Senate 29-1 nearly a month later on May 12. Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law over the weekend. It goes into effect on September 1.

On May 24, Dallas City Council passed a resolution in support of H.B. 567, encouraging Governor Greg Abbott to sign it into law.  

“The CROWN Act is Civil Rights legislation that will affect and improve the lives of countless Texans,” said Rep. Rhetta Bowers for District 113 in Garland, who co-authored the bill, in a statement to D Magazine.  

The bill’s language bans entities like schools and employers from enacting grooming or dress code policies that discriminate against natural hair or protective hair styles that are historically tied to race, including braids, locks, and twists.

It was the shortest sine die in recent history: the Texas Legislature gaveled out Monday afternoon, only to be called back for the start of what Gov. Greg Abbott indicated would be several special sessions through the summer. When the legislature adjourned, after all, it had only passed three of Abbott’s listed priorities: a bill increasing penalties for those found guilty of fentanyl poisoning, a school safety bill, and a bill outlawing COVID mandates.

The first special session started at 9 p.m. Monday night—about three hours after the close of the regular session. But before we delve into what lawmakers are digging into with the first special session, let’s rewind to a very dramatic Sunday, when one of Abbott’s priority bills—legislation that would use part of the state’s budget surplus to reduce property taxes—failed to pass. 

Everyone knows who Jim Schutze is. But you might not know about his connection to Houston. Once upon a time, he was the Dallas bureau chief for the Houston Chronicle. In that capacity, he made a lot of hay writing about the shenanigans at the Dallas Independent School District. Then Jim took a job at the Dallas Observer, where he wrote about the district’s turnaround and two people who had a hand in it: then trustee Mike Morath and then superintendent Mike Miles. Now Morath runs the Texas Education Agency, which is taking control of the failed Houston ISD. The tip of Morath’s spear, as Jim puts it, is none other than Miles.

Jim explains all this with typical Schutzean wryness in a new Substack he just launched called Shoots. The first installment, titled “Houston at the Spear,” went up yesterday. In the coming weeks, he intends to help Houston understand the people who’ve come to take over their public schools. He writes:

Do I understand how little anyone in Houston will want to hear from anybody from Dallas about how to run the Houston schools? My, yes. I already told you. I used to earn my living that way.

Worse, I intend to write about it here myself. For Houston. Oh, my goodness, it’s awful. Me. An old, white ex-hippie guy in Dallas. I venture, I dare, I presume to tell Houston in the months ahead what’s going on in Houston. And in all candor, I confess that a minor part of my motivation will be knowing exactly how irritating and preposterous that will be for Houston. 

I asked Jim whether he’d pitched this idea to the Chronicle, and, if not, how he settled on Substack. “Me no talk Chronicle,” Jim texted back. “I have no idea what I’m doing. A friend has been nagging me to break the Facebook habit. He’s right. It makes me feel stoopit. Supposedly Substack is smarter. Why, I don’t fully know yet.”

I asked him if he plans to write something every week. “Yes, at least that,” he texted. “Looks like, if I write 12 columns a week and charge for them, I can equal what I would get as a part-time Walmart shopping cart dispenser.”

So there you go. Jim’s Shoots is obviously aimed at Houston, but I think a fair number of folks in Dallas will want to follow along, too. Sign up and let’s see if his revenue projections are accurate.

Local News

North Texas Lawmakers Factor Prominently in Paxton Impeachment Proceedings

Bethany Erickson
By |
House General Investigating Committee members, including Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth) and chair Andrew Murr (R-Junction), laid out the articles of impeachment against Attorney General Ken Paxton in the House Chamber at the Texas Capitol on Saturday, May 27, 2023. Aaron E. Martinez / American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK

Standoffs on school funding and property tax reductions bookended the final days of the 88th regular session of the Texas Legislature. It was a dramatic weekend, even without the House voting on articles of impeachment for Attorney General Ken Paxton. 

On Saturday, the House voted 121-23 to impeach the state’s embattled top cop, which breaks down to 61 Democrats and 60 Republicans. Among those who voted for impeachment are the entire Collin County delegation of state representatives. (Paxton and his wife, State Rep. Angela Paxton, have lived in McKinney for decades.)

The representatives—Jeff Leach (R-Plano), Matt Shaheen (R-Plano), Justin Holland (R-Rockwall), Candy Noble (R-Lucas), and Frederick Frazier (R-McKinney), called Paxton a “longtime friend,” and said that the vote was “incredibly difficult.”

“General (sic) Paxton, like all Texans, is entitled to a presumption of innocence,” they said. “In that regard, it is our hope that the Texas Senate will expeditiously hold a fair, impartial and full trial on the merits.”

The five were the subject of some ire from Collin County GOP Chair Abraham George, who held a rally Monday at the Collin County Courthouse and demanded that everyone who voted for impeachment be voted out of office while questioning the impeachment process.

“The Texas House followed all applicable laws and rules [relating to impeachment] to the letter,” Holland said in a Tweet. “Abraham George is misinformed and has led the @CollinGOP so poorly that it has led to a decline in participation in Republican politics. I hope, he too, is faced with a primary.”

Among the 23 that voted against impeachment include North Texas representatives Brian Harrison (R-Midlothian), Nate Schatzline (R-Fort Worth), and Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington).

Stars Got Crushed. From the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s account of the 6-0 spanking: “William Karlsson, Reilly Smith and Keegan Kolesar wrapped their arms around one another and jumped on the American Airlines Center ice. The celebration continued as the Golden Knights—after not touching the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl—celebrated winning the Western Conference by belting Toto’s “Hold the Line” and donning gray hats and T-shirts.” If you can stomach it, we’ve got more for you over on StrongSide.

Mark Cuban Gets Dragged on Twitter. The billionaire stepped in it last night. After he asked how many people were watching the Heat-Celtics game on an illegal stream, he earned the nickname Narc Cuban, which then began trending.

Paxton Supporters Rally in Collin County. About 100 people turned out on the steps of the county courthouse to protest the impeachment of Ken Paxton, who now faces a Senate trial over charges of bribery and abuse of power.

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