City Hall

Preservationists Want to Stop the City from Building the Texas Horse Park Over Historic Spring

Tucked at the bottom of a hill off Highway 175 in southern Dallas there's a spring. That it hasn't been paved over is remarkable. That you can still cup your hand and drink from it without getting dysentery or guzzling a toxic chemical stew is little short of miraculous. This is the middle of the city, just a short hop from the decidedly less pristine junction of White Rock Creek and the Trinity River.

But there it is, beckoning travelers like an oasis just as it has for centuries. The Caddo Indians knew it. Sam Houston camped there in 1843 en route to a treaty conference with the Comanches and other tribes. John Neely Bryan, Dallas' founder, drew water from the spring for the home he built nearby. Bill Holston, and Dallas Trinity Trails both describe the spring well.

Pemberton Spring -- or Big Spring, or White Rock Spring, or Bryan Spring -- has been threatened before, by plans calling for sewer lines to pass through, or by a gravel operation next door, or by a business that tapped the spring as a handy water source. Each time, the threat has been averted with the help of the city.

Now, the spring's advocates say there's a new threat: the city itself. It just so happens to occupy the section of the Great Trinity Forest where the city plans to place the Texas Horse Park, and city surveyors have been spotted taking soil samples and driving stakes marked "barn" and "arena" a few dozen feet from the head of the spring.

We have an email into the city for their specific plans. For now, we'll rely on Hal and Ted Barker, whose open records requests sparked the movement that kept cars off Winfrey Point . They've launched a Save Pemberton's Big Spring Facebook page, where they're posting pictures, maps, and whatever other information they've gathered. Others are also spreading the word.

Ted Barker says he's been told by the city that the surveyors were mistaken when they drove the stakes marking the corner of the barn and arena. But he and his brother doubt that and are waiting on a large open records request regarding the city's plans. They figure the city's "running around the same way they did with Winfrey," he said. "The Barkers are on the loose again."

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson