Current and Former Dallas Council Members Feud Over Deck Park

Southern Gateway Park would bridge I-35E near Dallas Zoo

Emotion ran high between a current and a former city leader Thursday over plans for a proposed Southern Gateway deck park over Interstate 35E in front of the Dallas Zoo.

Current Dallas Councilwoman Carolyn King Arnold crashed a press conference staged at the zoo by former Councilman Dwaine Caraway.

"How is it that you all are responding to a constituent, on this matter, with this magnitude?" Arnold asked reporters, as she walked up to Caraway's gathering.

Caraway stepped aside when Arnold arrived after he called the media to complain that Arnold is sabotaging the plan he supports.

"We're not concerned about the amenities. We're concerned about the necessities. And that means sewer lines, streets, senior citizen housing," Arnold said.

Arnold is the new representative for Dallas City Council District 4, which Caraway held for years. She has called the plan "wreck park" over the damage she believes it will do to the nearby 10th Street Historic Freedman's District.

Arnold said gentrification from a deck park will make the neighborhood unaffordable for current residents.

The Dallas City Council endorsed the plan for a deck park over I-35E between Ewing and Marsalis avenues in June, over Arnold's strong objection. That day, she wanted a location further south over I-35E near Overton Road.

"The further south we went, the more push back we received. And that's when we began to realize it wasn't about economic development. It was about a vanity project," Arnold said. "I cannot have my constituents neglected by some vain vanity projects. I'm here as an advocate for the quality of life and I'm bound and determined to continue that fight."

After Arnold stepped away from the microphones Thursday, Caraway complained that she rudely interrupted his press conference.

Caraway said other neighborhoods would welcome the deck park Arnold opposes.

"We cannot afford to lose this opportunity," Caraway said. "This opportunity will go somewhere else. Then all of our work, all of our hope, all of our dreams, all of the future, flushes right down if we do not step up and do something."

Caraway said the success of Klyde Warren Park bridging Woodall Rodgers Freeway between Downtown and Uptown Dallas is an example of what a second deck park could bring to Oak Cliff. New Southern Gateway Park renderings, released this week, were developed with input from people attending public meetings that Caraway said Arnold missed. He predicted the park would attract new jobs, entertainment, stores and restaurants that could help the nearby 10th Street District.

"Absolutely, it would benefit," Caraway said. "You cannot be afraid of stepping up and moving forward."

The total reconstruction of I-35E R.L. Thornton Freeway called the Southern Gateway is soon to begin. State officials wanted the deck park location and plan identified so it could be included in the work. But Dallas has only about half the $78 million needed to complete the park.

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