Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Friday, March 23, 2007
Following is a comment that was posted here by an anonymous poster. Because I don't often post comments left anonymously, nor did I agree completely with what was said, I deleted the comment. Further communication with the poster led me to decide to post her comments. While I don't agree with everything the poster says (or implies), I believe she raises some points that are worth taking into consideration.
By far, the most popular place in the north Texas area to run, skate, walk, or bicycle, is the White Rock Lake Trail. Since its original development in the late 1970s, the real-world safety design for users has been ignored. Although trail users far outnumber other park users, preference has continually been shown to automobiles, fishermen, boaters, dog-owners, and cultivated plant lovers.
The recent construction of a new trail and bridge (a too narrow bridge) over the northern end of the lake was done to mitigate the extreme safety problems on Mockingbird Lane that the dog park had dangerously exacerbated. But it wasn't the Dallas Parks Department that initiated and paid for the safety improvements; it was City of Dallas and Dallas County Public Works Departments that responded to the danger and paid the $1.5 million for an imperfect solution (to be fair, it's my understanding that the Parks Department chipped in some money to put stone facings on the bridges). But now the Park Department intends to spend $1 million on enlarging and "improving" the dog park. Cyclists and runners? Stone facing on bridges. How about spending that $1 million on a SECOND bike/ped bridge across the lake to better accommodate the traffic?
This year, during one of our quadrennial "flood events" along White Rock Creek/Lake, the retaining walls along the White Rock Lake Spillway collapsed. Dallas Water Utilities (the folks who "own" the lake and the park... it's "leased" to the Parks Department) is going to be doing major repairs to the spillway. This will necessitate closing the trail. It is also a golden opportunity to make the trail safer along the spillway. Since its inception, the trail section along the spillway has been very dangerous. The grade is too steep to meet any recognized design guides. The steepness results is dismounted cyclists, walking skaters, and struggling baby carriage pushers being greeted by cyclists and skaters travelling at speeds approaching 20 mph as they descend down the steep hill, simply coasting.
Now is the time to make this section safe. By utilizing the entire area between Garland Road/State Highway 78 and the spillway (eliminating the existing parking lot), a gentle "serpentine" trail about 18 feet wide could descend to the ped bridge at a 4% (or less) grade (the maximum grade allowed by ADA is 5%). This would eliminate the high speed descent and the struggling ascent both. The extra width would provide plenty of maneuvering room for all trail users to safely share the trail. This is a design that makes the safety of the dominate park users the primary objective of the reconstruction (just as the Water Department is taking the safety of residents below the dam as their primary objective).
However, the City of Dallas has chosen a design that maintains the steep incline, and focuses primarily on the building of a large "stone faced" viewing area with tables and benches and steps. The trail will be "divided" so that confusion will reign. Steps and "stone faced" amenities will be placed along the descent (but "out of the way") to provide ample opportunity for a cyclist, a runner, or a skater, to have something hard and unyielding to crash into as the result of trying avoid crashing into a walker, or a child, or a dog. The parking lot will be eliminated, but instead of using the extra space to create a safe trail descent, now an "architectural monument" will be constructed. The anticipated "crowds" who will fill this viewing area will have to travel up the 12' trail, further adding to the confusion and danger of this section.
And why is this $2 - $4 million design being put forward? To encourage people to clog the trail during the one to four times a year that we have a "flood event" along White Rock Creek. But it certainly will look nice as you drive down Garland Road... or as you lay on your back waiting for the ambulance.