Dallas has become a national model for excellence in developing innovative green spaces, and we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity now to become the city with the highest level of park access in Texas.
According to Trust for Public Land, the city of Dallas and its nonprofit partners have brought new parks and trails within a 10-minute walk of nearly 300,000 residents since 2014. More than a quarter of Dallas residents, however, still do not live within a 10-minute walk of a park. That is why Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson is right to acknowledge now is the time to take our efforts to the next level.
Recently, Johnson named Garrett Boone the city’s first greening czar. Boone will lead Johnson’s priority initiative to transform vacant, unused and underused city-owned land into green space.
This initiative — similar to the Cool School Neighborhood Parks Program managed by the Texas Trees Foundation and supported by Lyda Hill Philanthropies — is an innovative and cost-effective way to bring park access to scale, and Boone has the passion, experience and drive to make a big impact.
He is also the mayor’s appointed chair of the 2024 Bond Program Parks & Trails Subcommittee, a group of 15 Dallas residents who manage the allocation of bond funding for the development and improvement of parks, trails and recreation centers throughout Dallas, a project Johnson identified as one of his top three bond program priorities in his November 2022 State of the City Address.
As chair of the Community Bond Task Force Committee, I am honored to come alongside this important mission to deliver the largest investment in parks in Dallas’ history.
In my experience, the following tactics will prove key components of success.
Be strategic. Initiate projects in the areas of highest need as defined by Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore Rating system.
Define and follow a clear site selection process. Vet each candidate property to ensure it is appropriate for development. An effort should be made to engage leaders from the property’s managing city department, and due diligence of each site should be conducted prior to its formal selection.
Establish a robust community engagement framework. Engage with the residents who live near or around candidate sites to ensure proposed improvements benefit the community and are responsive to its needs.
Secure funds to build — and maintain — capital improvements. Proper maintenance of improved properties is critical to ensuring they remain clean, safe community gathering spaces.
Dallas is uniquely positioned to increase residents’ access to parks and open spaces. Achieving our desired progress will require all of our public and private partners rallying behind this mission. I have full confidence that together, with the most park-friendly City Council and mayor in our city’s history, we will prevail.
Arun Agarwal is the CEO of Nextt, a Dallas based-textile company, and president of the Dallas Park and Recreation Board. He is also the vice chair of the Texas Economic Development Corporation. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.
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