Ken Kalthoff, NBC 5 News
Thousands of voices have been heard, the Dallas Arboretum no longer plans to mow a prairie grass and wildflower area for parking, but parking is still a problem.
The Dallas Arboretum announced Wednesday it has abandoned plans to mow a prairie grass and wildflower area at White Rock Lake Park to make way for temporary parking.
The announcement came after a week of furious protests from neighbors, who said they were upset about the mowing of what they consider a nature area for the arboretum that features plants.
An estimated 2,000 protesters marched to the arboretum entrance on Saturday and demonstrated against mowing at Winfrey Point on the lake.
And neighbors delivered a petition with 8,000 signatures in opposition to the plan to Dallas City Hall on Wednesday.
"It goes back to the passion that people have over this issue,” said Chris Herron, Emerald Isle Neighborhood Association president. “It should be very clear, I hope. If it’s not already, I think it will be after we deliver these petitions -- Winfrey Point is off limits."
Mary Brinegar, arboretum president, declined a request for an interview Wednesday but issued a statement:
”Over the past couple of weeks, the Arboretum has heard the opinions of its friends and neighbors and recognizes any plans to temporarily park at Winfrey Point have resulted in serious misunderstandings that need to be addressed. We are committed to being a good neighbor and steward to the citizens of East Dallas, the Metroplex and all of North Texas.
We are looking forward to working with city officials and neighborhood associations in the immediate future to develop a plan that best serves the interest of all parties involved. It is our pledge to endeavor to make such planning transparent. “
Neighbor Hal Barker discovered plans last week through a records request for an arboretum parking garage structure at Winfrey Point that would replace Little League fields and prairie grass areas. The plans had never before been made public.
“It needs to be placed in writing what the city intends to do with this property,” he said.
Hal Barker’s brother, Ted, led some of the protests.
“We have a very good understanding," Barker said. "They wouldn’t have spent that kind of money if they didn’t intend to build the structures."
On Friday, the city successfully defeated another neighbor’s court order to block mowing. But the city also accepted in court an agreement with the neighbor to not to build any permanent parking structures while the lawsuit is still pending.
Mayor Mike Rawlings said Wednesday that the decision not to mow is the correct move for now.
“This is just kicking the can down the road a little bit,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out a long-term solution. White Rock Lake is for all the citizens, and we’ve got to make sure we help our neighborhoods as well, and sort out those issues."