New talk about old Dallas Trinity River park plan

New plans will be much different than what was seen over the years.

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Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson has revived talk of a giant Trinity River park that voters approved 25 years ago.

But what voters are likely to get now is very different than the plans they’ve seen over the past two decades. Instead of in the riverbed between the downtown river levees, the features planned now will be outside the levees overlooking the river.

At the West Dallas Trinity overlook, which was to be adjacent to the park, Ian Johnson was having his lunch Friday. It’s a spot he enjoys visiting.

“All the time, three or four times a week, yeah,” he said.

Trails were built there leading down into the river bed. Big apartments have gone up on both sides of the river near what was to be the developed park.

Johnson spoke about it Tuesday as he was sworn in for a second term. He said it was part of his goal for Dallas to have the best park system in the state.

“A 250-acre community park that's going to transform the Trinity River corridor and become an iconic Dallas destination,” Johnson said.

Seven years ago when the Harrold Simmons family donated $50 million to secure park naming rights, then-Mayor Mike Rawlings forecast a year of park design. But renderings shown then of construction inside the levees are no longer on the drawing board.

A spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the Trinity floodway, said no official park plan has been submitted by Dallas. But city officials have said they received clear indications that park construction would not be approved inside the levees.

“The Army Corps of Engineers is not interested in any type of true construction when it comes to recreation area, with the exception of what they've already approved which are the lakes,” Dallas City Council Member Omar Narvaez said.

He represents much of the proposed park area and West Dallas where the lakes are under construction west of Westmoreland Road. The dirt dug for the lakes is being used to raise the levees. Downtown, the Harrold Simmons Park development is now planned to be above the river levees.

Gateway overlook features are being planned at Commerce Street and at the west end of the Ron Kirk Pedestrian Bridge near Singleton Boulevard.

The park may also one day use the old Dawson State Jail building on the east side of the river at Commerce Street.

The Trinity Conservancy is still raising money and advancing plans, said President and CEO Tony Moore.

“The Harold Simmons Park is absolutely going to happen and we are thrilled with Mayor Johnson’s commitment to parks and green spaces,” Moore said. “Harrold Simmons Park will absolutely be an iconic attraction and it will complement the other series of parks and green spaces that Dallas has.”

Narvaez said he has seen the plans and he is anxious for it to move forward.

“We're not going to see as much inside the levees as we are going to see outside the levees, and in all honesty, I think that's better,” Narvaez said.

Moore said the plans will be released to the public soon.

Frequent visitor Ian Johnson said he agrees with the new approach.

“Yeah, it makes more sense over here, it definitely makes more sense, because it does flood down there,” he said.

Fundraising is still necessary and there’s no completion date forecast, after 25 years of delays on the Dallas Trinity River Park.

A toll road was also once included in the plan approved by voters in 1998, but that was killed by the Dallas City Council in 2017.

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