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Dallas Considering Turning 2 Streets Into Parks as Lockdown Continues

Dallas' parks and trails are an asset, and a potential vector, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dallas' parks and trails are an asset, and a potential vector, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kathy Tran

There's one really attractive exception to Dallas' stay-at-home order. Sure, it lets you get out and shop for essentials and go get takeout, but that stuff's banal. The big thing, the "Get Out of Jail Free" card, is the county and city orders' exception for those seeking outdoor exercise, either on their own or with the people and animals who live in their households.

For people who have been cooped up, Dallas' parks and trails call like a siren, even for the more sedentary among us. People are flocking outside, especially to some of Dallas' most popular amenities like White Rock Lake and the Katy Trail. In any other situation, their doing so would be a great thing for the city. Right now, it's leaving the city and the Dallas Park and Recreation Department searching for answers.

People need a break. They need exercise, but their coming too close together over the coming weeks could put everyone's health at risk.

So far, Dallas has addressed overcrowding reactively, closing parking lots around White Rock and sending park rangers to address calls from residents concerned about a lack of social distancing.

Thursday afternoon, city staff said the effort was still a struggle. Stemming car traffic around the lake has shunted cars into surrounding neighborhoods, in effect just moving the problem. Defining what officials should take action against and what they shouldn't has been difficult on the Katy Trail, where people are moving but are frequently coming too close together.

Dallas Code Services Director Carl Simpson said an increase in visible enforcement might be necessary.

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"One of thoughts I had during this conversation was maybe a strategic deployment. I know the (city) marshals have offered their services (along with) DPD," Simpson said. "Perhaps with the Katy Trail and some of our larger spaces, if we know there's going to be nice weather, perhaps we could get together as a group and go out and actually walk in the parks — use bullhorns if we have to, continually remind people."

Michael Rogers, Dallas' transportation chief, suggested a happier way to alleviate the crowds. The city, Rogers said, is considering converting 7th Street in Oak Cliff and Turtle Creek Boulevard into temporary parks during the crisis.

"7th Street is really the first opportunity that we have," Rogers said. "That area, we're looking at, potentially, next week opening that up, partnering with Better Block."

If you're looking for a less crowded space to grab some sun in the interim, the parks department also pushed out a list of the city's "Best Kept Secret Parks" on Thursday — which kind of defeats the point, but we digress. 

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