Updated: Sep 13, 2019
by Michael Cintron, Friends of Bachman Lake
"Stay in your lane." We hear that often in our lives. It's a way to tell others that they're not playing in the right league or are not considered experts on what they're talking about. When it comes to protecting and improving Bachman Lake Park, the only lanes we're concerned with are for pedestrians and cyclists. It's OK to not have all the answers right away and that's why we're knocking on the doors of those who can help Bachman Lake and park.
What we've learned since getting started this past spring is that all it takes to move things forward is to bring people to the table. The hard part is finding out who needs to be there. We have lots of ideas from residents in our community for what makes a great park. One of the key ones is accessibility and connnectivity. That's huge, and something that we're passionately working on. Like peeling away the layers of an onion, once you come up with a wish list of things you'd like to see done, you have to find out what department or agency is in charge and then you have to find out who can make things happen there.
Here's just one example:
We want to make sure Bachman Lake is accessible to everyone in the community. Sounds pretty straight-forward, right? Well, first we need to find out why there's no bridge over Northwest Highway to make that big connection. It turns out that the desire has been there for quite some time (as a needs assessment study from 2005 can attest) but the money hasn't. So, where do you get that money? You start sniffing around the various departments to see where there might be money accessible from a previous bond, for example. Then you have to find out what it takes to get access to those funds. Sometimes there are no unallocated funds, but there are grants that various agencies can apply for. In order to do so, a case has to be made as to why the money is best spent in the manner being proposed. That often requires a study which also needs to be paid for. Grant applications also have inherent deadlines and if something was not a priority before, it's a hard thing to wedge in at the last minute. Often you have to wait for the next chance to apply for funds. It's like trying to jump into a moving merry-go-round, only this one moves as fast as a car on a speedway.
Building bridges – literally and figuratively – takes some tactical planning. Can you build a bridge as part of another project? Well, we've learned that Northwest Highway is going to undergo some improvements. The problem is, sidewalks weren't part of that plan. So we asked if there was any way to build adequate pedestrian access to what could become the long-sought-after passage over Northwest Highway. This could also be a great connection to the Bachman Trail which finally could mean some major improvements, including safe pedestrian access to the bridge that takes Webb Chapel Road from Northwest Highway into Shorecrest. We're still trying to find answers while we navigate a little hot-potato volley between the State and the City.
We've also learned that the airport has plans to create pedestrian access along Lemmon Avenue, plus there is a plan to create a loop trail around the airport. If that connection can connect Lemmon to Shorecrest, via loop or other means, it can hook up to the Bachman Trail. That's a huge link!
Meanwhile, the City of Irving continues its work on its side of the Trinity along the Campion Trail. The Northaven Trail recently completed a western expansion almost to Denton Drive, which, with a little work, good timing, and more funds can help connect the Bachman DART Station to the Bachman Trail. Imagine all that activity around Bachman Lake with just a few missing pieces needed to put it all together.
The challenge is money. The challenge is also timing. Each piece of the puzzle is owned by a particular department or agency. Each step requires multiple levels of approval. Every incremental move will eventually affect another agency's jurisdiction. That's why we need to bring everyone together. In the last few months, we've met with: Dallas Parks; Dallas County; Dallas Water Utilities; the City of Irving; Dallas Police Department; the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG); the Aviation Department; the City Council; the Department of Transportation. Surely we've probably left one or two off this list. Now we're working to set up meetings with TxDOT and state representatives to talk about what's happening around Northwest Highway.
You see, it's more than keeping Bachman Lake clean and safe. While on the subject, we need to give a special thanks to our nonprofit friends: Keep Dallas Beautiful, Groundwork Dallas and others who have helped us make Bachman Lake Park the cleanest it's been in a long, long while. Groundwork Dallas is also helping create a vision for greater trail connectivity by cleaning up and managing areas that would make ideal locations for connnecting major parts of the various trail systems. These are the folks who brought Hines Park back to life and, with their hard work and expertise, can help the necessary agencies make a vital connection to the Campion Trail happen sooner than later.
We get the sense that everyone is on board with making our city more pedestrian friendly and access to green spaces is key to that. That's good news. Everyone wants to be part of something great. Getting multiple governing agencies to work together for a common cause is a breakthrough but will always be a work in progress. And don't forget that you're a part of that "everyone" too. Voters count and they are the ones who can move mountains. So call, write, email your representatives. Ask questions and let them know you're out there ... and paying attention, because the road we're all traveling is going in the same direction, no matter what lane you occupy.