The Garland City Council voted this week to close Windsurf Bay Park on Lake Ray Hubbard for the Fourth of July because Garland police were afraid too many people would show up for holiday picnics. That’s one approach.
Of course, another strategy would be to make it a better park. And by the way, as far as the city's role in it goes, this one sucks.
I spent some time leafing through a glossy 100-page study done recently for Garland by Freese and Nichols, a high-dollar consulting firm, on ways the city could improve the Interstate 30 corridor, which passes by the park. On pages overflowing with verbiage about public-private partnerships and encouraging more retail, I found not one reference to Windsurf Bay Park.
hat a shame. In spite of the city’s deplorable stewardship, it’s easy to see why people want to go to that particular piece of land. In a broiling tangle of access roads, storefronts and freeway roar, Windsurf Bay Park is a finger of quiet greenness jutting out into a cool gray sheet of rippled water. It is one small mercy in an aggressively ugly anti-human concrete desert built by money-grubbers and con men.
But talk about a crappy job of providing a park. The city’s contributions to public comfort consist of one small pavilion without plumbing or electricity and two portable plastic outhouses.
Police told the Garland City Council that, based on other recent holiday crowd counts at the park, they expected 8,000 people to show up if the park were left open for Independence Day. So, yeah, 8,000 people, two portable johns, not a pretty picture.
But here’s a thought. Instead of punishing 8,000 people who are looking for a picnic on Independence Day, how about building some toilets? What about some shade structures?
I don’t want to oversimplify this. The park is hemmed in by neighborhoods and provides only one small, crumby dirt parking lot not capable of holding more than a couple hundred cars at most. That means people park their cars up and down the residential streets on holidays.
And there is no telling where they go when the lines are too long at the outhouses. So it’s not going to be cheap or easy to turn this little spit of land into a well-designed, properly functioning urban park.
But what else has Garland got to do? Ray Leszcynski of The Dallas Morning News reported last year that Garland City Council member Jerry Nickerson was calling the I-30 corridor “the next major economic development we have in the city.” Yeah, maybe, sir, if you can learn how to do a halfway decent park.
The I-30 corridor from Dallas east through Garland and Rockwall has a long history as some of the most brutally abused real estate in the region. From the Danny Faulkner land scams of the 1980s until today, that area along the freeway is what you get when farmers and funeral home directors build a city — mall after mall after mall and not enough infrastructure to keep the lights on and the bathrooms working in a Boy Scout camp.
It doesn’t help that the area is a frequent target for tornadoes. Somebody needs to tell Mother Nature the trailer parks aren’t there anymore.
But the area behind the freeway is teeming with some of the region’s most aspirational and upwardly mobile seekers and strivers. Schools in the area tend to be great, and the residential neighborhoods are proudly tended and pretty safe.
The people are there. They just need to use that independence we declared for ourselves 242 years ago to go get themselves some smarter leaders.
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This week when I drove out there, the park was almost empty. A guy was learning how to do roll-overs in a kayak. A young mother was wading with her kids. A family was setting up a picnic.
Hey, Garland City Council, there’s your asset. There’s your big future. Do everything you can to keep that guy in the kayak coming out, to keep that mother coming to wade with her kids and keep that family picnicking. All of those fat retailers you dream of sticking up for tax money — don’t worry, they’ll show up if you’ve got the kayaker and the mom.
The park comes first, not last. Do something really decent for the people who live there, the people who want to go out and celebrate the history of their nation with a joyful day outdoors. The rest will follow. You may even get a better class of crap-selling mallsters, God forbid.