Dallas stands apart when you travel by trail.
Take a family bike ride along Northaven Trail, where an inflatable movie screen and projector show movies at dusk on summer nights.
Stroll down SoPac Trail and walk past the buzzing activity of a pollinator garden, blossoming with wildflowers, a stop for monarch butterflies on their migratory path.
There’s always the iconic watering hole where you can jump off Katy Trail to grab an ice-cold beverage and continue to Victory Park and Downtown.
At Trinity Forest Trail along the Trinity River, the immediate entrance into the forest allows you to reconnect with nature and maybe catch an early morning glimpse of an owl gliding through the trees.
Pocket parks, pollinator gardens, murals and movie nights create unique experiences offered along trails across Dallas. These amenities are provided through an intentional partnership between the city of Dallas’ Park and Recreation Department and the “friends groups” that recently gathered under the single moniker Dallas Trails Coalition.
As my organization works with that coalition to build the 50-mile circuit of trails called The LOOP, it is imperative that the city keep pace supporting alternative forms of mobility.
The Dallas Park and Recreation Department is requesting additional funding specifically dedicated to trail maintenance. This allocation will provide additional employees for beautification and maintenance, and funding for lights and cameras for added security on our trails. Those of us who are actively involved with Dallas trails agree wholeheartedly with this request and strongly recommend these funds be included in the city budget this next fiscal year and beyond.
The parks department owns the trails and park space and provides critical services, including capital improvements and maintenance. The Dallas Trails Coalition supports the city’s work and provides additional amenities, each determined by the residents that make up each friends group. That’s why each trail has its own local character and experience.
A dedicated trail maintenance budget would allow for an expanded trail experience. New trail maintenance staff would provide scheduled services like landscaping and trash removal, and allow for emergency responses when access is inhibited, should a tree fall, or debris wash across a trail after a storm.
The funds also would bring recurring services to sections of the trail system that do not yet have friends groups; the Park and Recreation Department has the opportunity to provide the same level of services we have come to expect in the more supported areas of Dallas.
We are seeing great support for Dallas trails from City Hall. We agree with Mayor Eric Johnson when he calls trails critical infrastructure, and John Jenkins, director of the Park and Recreation Department, who recognizes the importance of a strong public maintenance program for trails that does not compromise other parks department funding. The requested allocation should provide new and ongoing funding. There are enough funds available in the 2023 budget for the city manager to accomplish this without taking away maintenance dollars from our other public green spaces.
We should all be encouraged by the city’s leadership on Dallas trails and recommend that the city manager and Dallas City Council grant the new trail maintenance funding to the Park and Recreation Department.