Updated: Jan 28, 2022
Just off of the northern end of Northwest Highway, west of Marsh Lane by the Sam’s Club, lies a long patch of green space with a line of aviation light stanchions behind chain link fencing. What an ideal place for a park, right? Not so fast. It took a bit of studying and some steady pushing but we have good news to report: Dallas Love Field Airport has carved out some acreage for a much needed neighborhood park!
The airport will be using some of the protected area at the end of one if its runways for a welcome strip of green as part of its larger plan to add a loop trail, sidewalks and other pockets of green along Lemmon Avenue and around the airport perimeter. Thanks to all your voices, #GiveMeGreen is becoming more than a slogan.
Amping Up the Green
As part of a recently completed Parks Master Plan, Love Field has two key areas near the airport where green enhancements will be made: First, there will be some upgrades to the already-existing Midway Manor Park which lies just opposite Love Field at the midpoint of the stretch of Lemmon Avenue that parallels the airport.
The second enhancement is the creation of a neighborhood park from the strip of land off of Northwest Highway that’s been largely off limits for decades. So why was this not on the airport’s radar (yes, pun intended) long before the community asked?
The ABCs of RPZ
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that airports restrict the use of land at the end of runways by acquiring the land outright or keeping land already attained from specific types of development. The reason? A runway protection zone (RPZ) is required.
This trapezoidal boundary extends beyond each end of all runways to avoid mass injuries (or worse) to folks on the ground should an aircraft land short or overshoot a runway. So the awkwardly named runway protection zone is actually a people protection zone. Now you know why the land has stood empty for so long. It pretty much has had to. But there are exceptions, and that’s how Friends of Bachman Lake seized an opportunity.
A Little Bug in the Ear
It took a little nudging and some research to push for something the community could enjoy on that barren strip of land. What we found is that the key to keeping the FAA happy about using the RPZ for anything other than a literal crash pad is making sure people don’t gather and linger in the zone. So, concert venues, markets, amphitheaters and any attractions that would create large crowds inside the RPZ are prohibited.
Interestingly, farming and grazing by livestock are allowed uses for the land. But we thought that something more useful to the residents in the area would be a better alternative – like a passthrough that pedestrians and cyclists could use to cross over Northwest Highway into Bachman Lake Park. This is a key reason we have the ear of the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) as they conduct the Bachman Area study. They can help get funds allocated for such long-overdue improvements to our area.
But wouldn’t it also be great to have a park somewhere in that zone so that nearby residents could enjoy some green space besides braving the dangerous traffic on Northwest Highway to Bachman Lake? The answer was a tepid maybe at first, but the community was able to turn that into a firm “yes.” Maybe the new park isn’t the size we were initially hoping for but it’s a good use of the space allotted given its adjacency to residents along its upper edge and the fact that there will likely be some crossing to Bachman Lake Park from Northwest Highway if NCTCOG recommendations get taken up by the powers that be and we keep insisting on it.
For all the teeth gnashing over an airport alternate entrance and the potential impact it would have to the quality of life around Bachman Lake Park, we at the Friends of Bachman Lake applaud efforts by Dallas Love Field to #GiveMeGreen wherever and whenever it is able to. A new neighborhood park is the type of community-business cooperation we seek, however small a step. We appreciate that they acknowleded requests by the community to get creative with this piece of land. We hope this is only the start.
Development in our area over the years has sadly been carried out through the lens (or windshield) of vehicular convenience more than the health of residents. The result has been an increase in heat reflective concrete and asphalt surfaces at the expense of the protective green canopies of mature trees. We see it and feel it every summer. Because the heat cone we live under is unsustainable, any time we get a strip of green here and some dots of green there, it’s a good thing. Now, what is it that they say about giving an inch? Let’s go get that foot next!