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.