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Riding Somewhere South of Heaven, Heading Back to the Newly Opened Santa Fe Trail

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This weekend marked a quiet little victory for East Dallas: the opening of a section of raised street crossings on the Santa Fe Trail, from South Carroll Avenue southwest to Hill Avenue, which means cyclists can now ride from Woodrow Wilson High School all the way -- well, almost all the way -- to Deep Ellum on a paved, car-free trail rather than braving the wilds of Elm or Live Oak Streets.

Though the Santa Fe Trail has, in some circles, been criticized for its singularly East Dallas flavor -- the occasional graffiti tag or broken beer bottle; the rows of yard sales offering old T-shirts and retired lawnmowers -- the raised extension south of Carroll affords sweeping views of downtown Dallas (and a junkyard or two) and is clean, sunny and extremely bike-friendly. Like its decidedly more dressed-up (in bamboo, designer workout gear and rocks that play classical music) cousin, the Katy Trail, the Santa Fe Trail follows an old railroad track through the city, with the ultimate goal of realizing those elusive New Urbanism ideals, connectivity and walkability.

According to Friends of the Santa Fe Trail co-founder and president Monty Watson, now that the bridges south of Carroll are open, the group's focus -- among ongoing things, such as providing amenities and planning for future sections -- will be on improving the street crossings on other parts of the trail. But the most exciting prospect for East Dallas cyclists, runners and roller-bladers is what happens this August: the extension of the paved trail from Woodrow Wilson High School to White Rock Lake. Watson says that section will take nine months to a year to complete, a process aided by the fact that the Friends has all its funding in place.

"It's actually going to happen, contrary to what many of us have thought over the past 10 years," Watson tells Unfair Park. "It's going to be so terrific."

The next step is getting the rest of the trail to connect from its abrupt end at Hill avenue to Deep Ellum and the DART line via Baylor Hospital -- and, ultimately, to Fair Park. That section, Watson says, is in the design phase but hasn't yet been funded. Check out the Friends of the Santa Fe Trail blog for updates.

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