A judge Friday granted the city of Dallas permission to mow what neighbors say should be a protected wildflower and prairie grass area at White Rock Lake Park to make room for Dallas Arboretum overflow parking.
Dozens of neighbors demonstrated against mowing at the area on Winfrey Point on Friday morning.
"They just wanted to show this is not what the people want," said Chris Herron, Emerald Isle Neighborhood Association president. "At this point we're well over 5,000 signatures on our petition."
Earlier this week, Dallas Councilman Sheffie Kadane said the mowing was a done deal.
But Friday afternoon, Kadane joined demonstrators at the park, put on one of their "Save Winfrey Point" T-shirts and promised that mowing will not happen, at least for now.
"I've heard what the people want, and that's what I'm doing here," Kadane said.
"They have the right to mow this property," Kadane said. "They have the right to park on it. They are not mowing it now. It will not happen this weekend, I'm telling you."
State District Judge Craig Smith confirmed those rights Friday, dissolving a temporary restraining order neighbors won Tuesday to block new parking construction at Winfrey Point.
In place of the TRO, an agreement was entered Friday that forbids construction of permanent parking but allows new temporary parking areas.
Another hearing in the case is set for May 14.
"At that point, we'll be able to put on evidence to show why it is important to protect this important prairie land and the species there, and ensure that the city does not put profits over the prairie land," plaintiff's attorney Majed Nachawati said.
This weekend, the arboretum will use other parking areas if there is an overflow crowd visiting the Chihuly art exhibit.
Arboretum and city officials declined comment earlier in the week, claiming they were told not to talk by attorneys because of the pending restraining order.
Friday afternoon, they held a press conference at the arboretum to discuss parking plans and dispute neighbors' claims about prairie land and wildflowers.
"We're all in favor of native grasses, but Winfrey Point doesn't have them," said Brian Shivers, arboretum board chairman.
The arboretum and city officials claim the grassland areas are nothing but invasive weeds that should be mowed to reduce a threat to plant species in the area that really are native.
The officials said mowing the tall grass areas only stopped because of city budget constraints.
"We have a history of parking at Winfrey Point up until five years ago," said Mary Brinegar, arboretum president.
Mowing may not happen this weekend, but Dallas Park Board member Gerald Worrall said the extra parking is needed.
"There will have to be some preparations made," he said. "I don't know the sequence and timing, but obviously to make available spaces, something will have to happen."
Worrall also confirmed that the Park Board has been privately investigating the possibility of permanent parking structures at Winfrey Point at some future date if funding becomes available.
The parking areas could be connected to the arboretum with a tram system in that plan.
Worrall said the plans had not been made public before because there is no money for such parking projects and that public meetings would be held when and if funding does become available.
City of Dallas spokesman Frank Librio issued the following statement about Winfrey Point parking late Friday:
"The City is pleased that the temporary restraining order is dissolved and that it can proceed forward to provide additional parking at Winfrey Point for the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society and other users of White Rock Lake. Although the City can now mow the grass and provide additional parking at Winfrey Point, the City will not do so this weekend."
The only thing the City agreed to today in court is not to construct a permanent parking structure at Winfrey Point for the time being. But the City has no plans to build such a structure there for the foreseeable future. Instead, the City and the Arboretum have been considering building a parking structure on Garland Road for several years. And contrary to what has been said by some, the City also has no plans to move or eliminate any baseball fields at the lake."
White Rock Lake is one of the City's treasures. So many people love to go to the lake that there has been a parking shortage there for years. That has resulted in many people parking in the nearby neighborhoods and businesses. The plan to allow parking on some of the grass near Winfrey Point is a temporary measure until permanent solutions to the parking problem can be developed and implemented. The City and its Park Board will continue to work with the Arboretum, the people who live and work near the lake, and the many users of the lake to develop and implement solutions to the parking shortage."
Ball Field Brouhaha
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