by Michael Cintron, Friends of Bachman Lake
It's hard to change perception, but for the small natural outcrop along Harry Hines Boulevard known as Hines Park, it now might be among the best-kept secrets in Northwest Dallas. But it wasn't always that way.
Hines Park had long been the local version of flyover country – a small, peripheral distraction that quickly sped past motorists driving along Harry Hines. If you blinked, you'd miss it, and for the longest time you'd probably be OK doing so. Enter Groundwork Dallas, a local trust of Groundwork USA, a non-profit dedicated to improving natural surroundings through volunteerism and community-based partnerships. The Groundwork Dallas folks clean up, build access and literally blaze trails through wooded and overgrown areas to connect people to the natural spaces that surround our area but are often neglected. Hines Park was one such place.
On June 7, Groundwork Dallas held a grand re-opening of Hines Park which now features a loop trail, a bird watching platform, a seating area and a new lease on life. It took years of hard work but now, if you head south on Harry Hines Boulevard, look on the right just before you approach the light at Webb Chapel Extention and you'll see the results. There is a large sign and a small parking area at the entrance to the park where you can now roam about, watch some wildlife or just sit and ponder your deepest thoughts, unimpeded by the urban serenade of cars and trucks moving along Harry Hines and I-35E beyond the marshes. It truly is surprisingly peaceful for being in such a high-traffic area.
During the ceremonies, Groundwork Dallas introduced and thanked the various parnters in their efforts to restore Hines Park. Among the guest speakers was Garrett Boone, co-founder and former CEO of the Container Store, and Board Member of Trinity Park Conservancy who shared a story about encountering a stranger while birdwatching at the park. The young man told him he had stopped by the park on his way to a gaming convention because it caught his eye while driving by and he thought it looked pretty amazing. "When you create a beatiful place for nature, people will come and be exposed to it who otherwise wouldn't be," Boone said.
Dallas Parks and Recreation Urban Biologist Brett Johnson also addressed the attendees before launching a bio-blitz event to give participants an opportunity to seek out and identify plants, animals and insects around the park using the iNaturalist App available for smartphones (iOS and Android). It's a great way to provide a natural census of the wildlife in the area while enriching participants with a hands-on educational experience for participants.
After the speeches and introductions, the crowd dispersed to watch birds, identify species of plants and animials and walk the trail loop. Before the ceremonies I couldn't help overhear a couple of birdwatchers on the observation platform talking about how amazing the transformation of the park was. "I used to call this dead body park," quipped one of them as she put down a pair of binoculars provided for the event. Having grown up in New York City during a very tumultuous time in its history, I strangely related to that statement. The body metaphor stuck because it symbolized despair and an uncaring population unflinched by a dying piece of their city. That's what makes these rebirths special. Hines Park, welcome to your new lease on life, and thank you Groundwork Dallas, Dallas Parks and Recreation and all the others who made it possible.