Ol' Man River

A body of water worth protecting

Ol' man river: In our effort to decide how to vote on the Trinity toll road initiative, Buzz spent a fun day last week looking through databases we didn't really understand and talking to unhelpful people at the EPA and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality seeking an answer to a question: If the city builds a park along the river downtown, with or without a high-speed toll road, why would anyone want to go there?

The folks in favor of the toll road inside the levees say it's a necessary first step toward the day when we can take a cane pole to the river downtown and do a little fishin'. Opponents say rejecting the toll road is a necessary first step...etc.

Which begs the question: Can you fish from the Trinity near downtown without wearing a HAZMAT suit? The short answer: Yes. Just don't eat the fish. You'd be better off drinking the water.

The poor old Trinity has gotten a bad rap from people like Buzz, who occasionally refer to it as a trash-strewn open sewer, and from its history in the last century, when it was called the River Styx in the '20s, says John Jadrosich, public information officer with the Trinity River Authority. Back then, the Trinity had—how shall we put it—issues, like catching fire from the grease released by stockyards. But the stockyards are gone, he says, and the modern water treatment plants feeding the river discharge clean water, so the wet part of the river is not bad at all. The fish problem is caused by now-banned pesticides manufactured in the '50s and '60s. Chemicals such as chlordane are designed to last forever, and they tend to build up in sediments and fish.

"This is a very, very complicated issue that should not be handled lightly at all," says Jadrosich, who apparently is unaware of what Buzz does for a living.

The TRA can't take a position on November's vote, but we got the impression that Jadrosich was pleased with the attention the issue is giving the Trinity. If nothing else, a good chunk of Dallas now realizes we have a natural body of water at the city's doorstep worth protecting. That might inspire residents to take more care when using lawn chemicals or cleaning up after their pets or deciding what to stuff down storm drains, which could lead to a healthier river. He points to Arlington's River Legacy Parks, with their nature and biking trails, forests and pavilions, as something Dallas' segment of river could become.

Ah, Arlington, with their cool parks and professional sports stadiums. Here's a thought: Instead of wrangling over the toll road, maybe we should petition Arlington to annex us.

 
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