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A Plan 80 Years In the Making!

Have you heard of the Bartholomew Plan?

The greening up of Dallas, as envisioned in 1943
The greening up of Dallas, as envisioned in 1943

At the prompting of Mayor J. Woodall Rodgers in June 1943, the Dallas City Council hired St. Louis, Missouri city planner Harland Bartholomew to draft a new comprehensive master plan for Dallas. The finished plan was delivered in January 1945. Action on the plan was initiated in December, 1945 after voters approved $40 million worth of improvement bonds. Products included not only expanding Love Field, Dallas’ municipally-owned airport and the Garza-Little Elm Reservoir (renamed Lake Dallas and later, Lake Lewisville) but also the construction of Central Expressway (U.S. Highway 75), the Dallas Memorial Auditorium, and the Dallas Public Library central facility.

The Bartholomew Plan attempted to streamline government and augment the economic development capacity of Dallas. Bartholomew’s comprehensive plan for the city treated Dallas government as a “system of systems” needing structure and coordination. One of the major quality-of-life matters it recommended was a system of Parks & Parkways that leveraged the creeks in the Trinity River Basin to create a ring of green around the city. Despite this comprehensive guide, the only portion of the system of Parks and Parkways that was implemented was in East Dallas.

The Northwest Portion of the Plan

It is only now, 80 years later, that the southern portion of this vision is being realized for Five-Mile Creek, a project led by Trust for Public Land. In short, the Bartholomew plan never made it our way and over the last eight decades, the community has been living with the negative effects of traffic, lack of safe crossings, noise, pollution and over-commercialization.

Over time, with the construction of I-35, the expansion of Northwest Highway and lack of adoption by the City to make the creeks part of the park system, the Bachman area became isolated despite Bachman Lake Park being a major amenity for 120 years. The Bartholomew Plan had proposed that Joe's Creek and Bachman Creek serve as the park connectors to East-West parkways along Northwest Highway and Forest Lane. Today, the Northaven Trail serves as a replacement for those 'lost' East-West parkways, but without the creek connectors, it's a challenge for residents of the Bachman Area to enjoy the existing (and growing) system of trails in Dallas.

Members of the Park Board settle in for their meeting ahead of the TBG/FoBL presentation on November 2.
Members of the Park Board settle in for their meeting ahead of the TBG/FoBL presentation on November 2.

A Plan In Motion

On November 2nd, urban design experts TBG Partners joined Friends of Bachman Lake in a presentation to the City of Dallas Park Board. The purpose was two-fold: 1) advocate for a master plan for Bachman Lake Park and 2) remind the Board of the support and the commitment needed to keep the links to surrounding communities, trails and safe crossings intact. It's a challenge for the Park and Recreation Department to maintain such links when many asks of the community fall under other city and state departments. However, TBG and FoBL received the full-throated support from the Park Board, along with sage advice on how to proceed.

Despite the caveat from the Board that master plans take time and money to create, the members were extremely supportive of TBG and Friends of Bachman Lake and reiterated the importance of the history and cohesiveness that Bachman Lake Park brings to the community, with some members offering their personal experiences at the Park as youth.

We also learned at the Park Board meeting that one of those connections is finally being funded by Dallas – the connection to the Campion Trail in Irving. This will be an exciting step in linking the Bachman Lake loop trail to a network that includes the Frasier Dam Recreation Area beyond I-35, Hines Park to the south and across to the Campion Trail. Add in the Lemmon Avenue Trail that Love Field is embarking on and you could envision a ride from the airport into Bachman Lake Park, over to Frasier Dam, Hines Park, Campion Trail and down the Trinity Strand to the Trinity Groves area. That's big!

It's also important to make these connections to meet environmental, social, health, and economic initiatives already undertaken by the City of Dallas. Similarly to Five-Mile Creek, the connections planned for the Bachman Area would help unify a region separated by a river and by highways. It's well known that injuries and fatalities are high in this area.

Our groups will lean heavily on City Council to help make the connections that will keep us linked to each other and to the green spaces originally dreamt up nearly a century ago. It's going to take a Bartholomew-sized effort , but maybe this time we can see it through.

Copy of a flyer emphasizing key points presented by TBG and FoBL on November 2.
Copy of a flyer emphasizing key points presented by TBG and FoBL on November 2.

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