Oh, for Crape's Sake

You think you have problems in your neighborhood? Crack houses? Rat-infested vacant lots?

Listen, wuss, you don't know how mean the mean streets of the city can get, and if you don't want to find out, then don't ever, ever touch one bloom on a crape myrtle.

Someone should have warned the folks in the Van Dyke neighborhood northeast of White Rock Lake. One of them decided to clear out a stand of overgrown crape myrtles growing in a tiny, triangular city-owned median near the intersection of Van Dyke and Peavy roads. Things got ugly. Real ugly.

Norma Minnis, whose home overlooks the median, says the decades-old crape myrtles were kept trimmed to 31 inches tall by the park department until 1994, when budget cuts put an end to city maintenance. The shrubs were left to grow wild, reaching 12 to 15 feet tall. In a fit of civic volunteerism (bad call), one of her neighbors last year sent a plan to the city to landscape the patch herself. The neighbor even agreed to maintain a sprinkler system there and pay for the water. The city said OK, and in December a crew cut down the tangled shrubs. Except for some comments in newsletters put out by homeowners in nearby Old Lake Highlands, Minnis says, few complained. Removing the crape myrtles gave nearby homes an unobstructed view across the lake to the downtown skyline.

But it seems they're slow to anger in East Dallas. A couple of weeks ago, Minnis walked out of her home and saw that a craped avenger had struck. "We fucked crape myrtles," someone spray-painted on her house. (Minnis wasn't the one who submitted the landscaping plan.) A fence and a couple of parked vehicles also were hit. Minnis figures it'll cost her about $300 to have the paint cleaned off her house.

"You almost can't imagine what it's like to walk down your driveway...and turn around and see something like that," Minnis says.

Actually, we suspect many people in Dallas neighborhoods that don't overlook the lake can imagine exactly what obscene graffiti is like.

For now, though, Minnis says bad blood is brewing between homeowners on Van Dyke and those in Old Lake Highlands. It's sort of like the Jets and the Sharks in West Side Story, but without all the singing and dancing.

But just as fey.


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