Trinity Park Management Plan Draws Opposition

Vote on local government corporation set for Aug. 9

The plan to create a local government corporation to raise money and run the proposed Dallas Trinity River Park is drawing opposition from critics who complain there has been too little public input.

A Dallas City Council briefing on an LGC, local government corporation, is scheduled for Aug. 2, and a council vote is set for Aug. 9, Mayor Mike Rawlings confirmed Tuesday.

"We've got to make sure that we have an LGC, a local government corporation that gets the politics out of building a park," Rawlings said.

A $50 million gift to help build the park from the Harrold Simmons family last year came with strings attached about park management.

Rawlings said the LGC would satisfy those concerns.

"It's win for everybody, and everybody wants to get this park done," Rawlings said. "I believe that the LGC is the quickest way to do that, and I think we'll come together as a council and say let's make it happen."

Angela Hunt, a former Dallas City Council member, is a strong critic of plans to build a road along the river and said the LGC plan is moving too fast.

"I think there's going to be tremendous skepticism about the purpose and motivation of a local government corporation unless the public has a chance to weigh in," Hunt said. "I'm shocked that the city would consider presenting this to the public on August 2nd and voting on it a week later. Have we learned nothing from Fair Park?"

A public/private partnership plan supported by Rawlings to manage Dallas Fair Park has been delayed after critics successfully fought for competitive bids.

Rawlings said the LGC suggested for a Trinity Park would be an entirely public entity, with members appointed by the City Council.

"It's a very different government structure that's used in Houston and Austin, and my lawyers have said we should have done this years ago," Rawlings said.

Hunt, who is also an attorney, said the details need to be thoroughly reviewed.

"It may be the perfect way to move forward on the Trinity or it may be a disaster. Let's have that conversation," Hunt said.

Hunt is pleased with plans for another vote on Aug. 9 that could kill the proposed Trinity roadway.

Five current Dallas City Council members signed a letter forcing a new vote on the road.

"I'm very excited that the city can hopefully move forward now, united behind a plan to finally develop our Trinity Park," Hunt said.

The latest version of the roadway approved by the Dallas City Council is for a meandering parkway that would provide access to the proposed park. Earlier plans that received initial approval from the Federal Highway Administration called for a high speed toll road with flood prevention walls.

Dallas voters first approved both a park and a roadway in a 1998 referendum, and the road was approved again by voters in 2007. Sufficient money to build a road has never been available.

Rawlings said he still believes a Trinity Parkway could help reduce downtown Dallas traffic congestion, but his support for the road has weakened.

"I'm tired of us fighting about it, frankly," Rawlings said. "I want to get on to the most important issue which is the park, because everybody agrees to the park."

Since the first referendum in 1998, Dallas leaders have argued that a park between the Trinity River levees would attract tremendous redevelopment of the areas alongside the river.

"It's fabulous to think about what it can mean to Dallas in the 21st Century," Rawlings said.

The park could cost $250 million, five-times more than the $50 million gift pledged so far. Rawlings said the LGC could help raise more private money to build the park.

The suggested 285 acre section of Trinity River floodway to be developed for the downtown park would be subject to inundation in high water events.

Below: Documents recently sent to members of the Dallas City Council from city staff detail the proposed local government corporation (LGC) plan to run the proposed Trinity Park.

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