Somehow, the Northaven Trail went from something feared — “who will be in my neighborhood if we build it?” — to beloved. Families walk, bike and exercise their dogs on the trail. Neighbors chat and say, “Good morning.” Real estate signs in the Preston Hollow neighborhood now include, “Backs up to the Northaven Trail” as an amenity. A long line of visionaries cooperated and championed the trail. So why isn’t it done yet? Here’s a look at the past, the present and the future of the trail.
Here’s what’s next for the hike and bike trail
Jeff Kitner, chief operating officer of the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce and the City Council District 11 representative to the Dallas Park and Recreation Board, points out that the construction is in the Oncor easement. “Oncor has been a good neighbor to make use of that space that otherwise wouldn’t be used.”
Up north, we don’t have many trails, says Calvert Collins-Bratton, who serves on the Dallas Park and Recreation board for Council District 13. “We have some park deserts because we’re so densely populated. If you go to southern Dallas county, they have huge expanses of park land and green space.”
Not everyone cares about playgrounds or dog parks, Bratton says. “Everybody can use a trail regardless of age or ability. We know that DART isn’t ideal because there aren’t enough stations in North Dallas. We know that we have too many cars. East/West is the hardest direction to go in DFW. The Northaven Trail makes good use of existing green space.”
Lois Finkelman, the former board chair of the Dallas Park and Recreation Board and the National Park and Recreation Association, is who many call the visionary of the North Dallas trail system. “The Northaven Trail is a little bit of a different animal than the White Rock hike-and-bike trail because you don’t really get the high-speed cyclists,” Finkelman says.
“It’s always like any construction project. It seems to take forever, but it’s worth it.”
“This is a very creative use of space,” Kitner says. “It fosters a great sense of community. I’m walking on the trail all the time. I see the same people, the same dogs – people I never would have met if there wasn’t the trail.”
Charles Elk, vice president of customer service for Oncor, emphasizes the utility’s priority to ensure that delivery of electricity is not hindered in any way. “Most of the people I see on the trail now are for fitness. Once you get the trail strung together, it will be for transportation. People making connections to buses, the rail – and that’s a different level than people taking a recreational walk. It’s always like any construction project. It seems to take forever, but it’s worth it.”
Bratton says, “When I was on maternity leave, I used the trail all the time. I would drop Vivienne at the Jewish Community Center and take the twins on the trail. It’s such a nice amenity. You feel protected. You have flashing lights, speed bumps. Think about how many acres of land that easement would be unused.”
The first phase, which begins behind the Jewish Community Center and travels to Preston Road, is currently in use. The second phase, from Preston Road to the Walnut Hill DART Station at Denton Drive, is divided into three segments: 2A, 2B and 2C.
2A, from Preston to Cinderella just west of Midway, is in the city’s hands, according to Kitner. This has gone out to bid. “All of Phase 2 is fully funded. There’s city, county and federal money in all of this. Everyone is working well together,” Kitner says.
2B goes from Midway to Cinderella. 2B and 2C, which goes to the Walnut Dart station, are being constructed concurrently. This is a Dallas County-led project. Construction is underway, and the county estimates that it will be complete by the end of the year.
“The master plan is for all these trails to be contiguous so that way you’re not stuck,” Bratton says. “This section was always going to be troublesome because of existing buildings like Grace Academy, Town North YMCA, Good Shepherd. There were more design challenges, so they couldn’t follow the easement as easily as they could in the first section.”
“There will be a dedicated bike path with some minor places where it uses the existing roadway because it’s already on a bridge overpass,” Kitner says. “With 2A, we had to work with Northaven Methodist and other stakeholders around their existing properties that were impacted by the easements.”
One of the challenges for the trail is that there are so many road crossings, Kitner says. Every once in a while, when you’re driving up one of the cross streets, someone comes barreling across without stopping. “We’ve been lucky that we haven’t had an accident so far,” he says.
Other challenges going forward: Concerns about crossovers at places such as Preston Road.
Lack of shade structures is another concern, Finkelman says. That may require the city to purchase a little park along the way or a way to put up a couple of benches and a shade structure.
WAY IN THE FUTURE: GO EAST
Bratton and Kitner are excited about the plans to expand east. “Have I shown you my pictures for SoPac?” asks Kitner. “We expand east over 75. You can get on at Fair Oaks Park right now. And the SoPac Trail terminus is where the Ridgewood Trail begins. Take that to Mockingbird bridge – this is all East Dallas. Then across the Mockingbird Bridge, you’re in Glencoe Park, and when you’re in Glencoe Park, you can go across 75 and connect to the Katy Trail.”
Bratton says this is still another phase they’re trying to get to. “It involves the Southern Pacific Railroad, which is partly in District 13, in Fair Oaks and Vickery Meadow. Much of it is done, but we still need to connect it.”
Kitner says there’s been a mile of the SoPac Trail that’s been unfunded. “There’s a mile from where Cotton Road Creek, Northaven, White Rock Creek, where those would all connect, and then to get from there to SoPac is about a mile. That’s Phase 4B. That’s unfunded. We’ve got to come up with some money to fund that, and we’re working on that.”
Says Bratton, “SoPac had a federal grant to help fund that substantially, which was very nice. It opened weeks ago and is already being used.”
Kitner explains that this is what’s planned for the end of Northaven on the east side is at Valleydale, behind the JCC, behind Cindi’s.
“Our hope is that Valleydale is converted into a one-way street and there will be a dedicated trail on Valleydale so you’ll connect from Valleydale to Northaven to this. There’s this vacant property that is mostly owned by the city, but there’s a small portion of that that is owned by TxDOT. There will be a circular or gentle ramp where you’ll be able to walk or bike up and then cross over 75 via a bridge and then there’s another creek on the east side and this will connect with the White Rock/Cottonwood Creek trail. So once this is done, you’ll be able to get almost anywhere.”
How long is the trail? The trail is 2.2 miles. When it is completed, it will be about 8 miles.
Why is it taking so long? “People see things happen at City Hall or get funded in a bond program and they expect it to be implemented in the next year or two,” says Lois Finkelman, former board chair of the Dallas Park Board and the National Park and Recreation Association as well as a former member of the Dallas City Council. “It takes time. As with the trail, sometimes it’s done in small increments. Adds Kitner, “2A, 2B and 2C should be built by the end of the year. Phase 2A has not gotten started yet with construction, but it’s gotten approval from the city council and the park board. Construction should start within the next couple of weeks.”
When will it be done? Phases 2B and 2C (from Cinderella Drive west to the Walnut Hill DART Station) should be finished by the end of 2018, according to Kitner. Phase 2A (from Preston Road west to Cinderella Drive) should be finished by fall 2019.
Who’s responsible for the mowing? The City mows it because it’s part of the trail system that’s maintained by the City, Bratton says.
Why isn’t there more shade? Oncor’s responsibility to safely provide electricity could be impacted by trees and other fixtures in the trail.
Will there be restaurants with porches along the trail like there are on the Katy Trail? No. The land is mostly zoned residential and church.
Is it dangerous to hike and bike near electrical lines? The utility companies “don’t seem to be as concerned about the liability issues that they were concerned about at the beginning,” says Finkelman.
What have been the challenges? Some of the schools have had parking lots in the easements, which has limited where the trail could be, according to Bratton. This has affected the trail’s width and the properties’ parking. Kitner says some property owners have overtaken Oncor’s easement with driveways and foliage.
Who are the Friends of the Northaven Trail? Friends of the Northaven Trail holds events to raise money for the trail. It funds maintenance and amenities such as benches and water fountains.
Here are upcoming events:
• It’s My Park Day, Saturday, Oct. 20, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Northaven Trail and Edgemere Road
• Light the Trail Party Sunday, Dec. 9, 5:30-7 p.m., Northaven Trail and Edgemere Road
For more information, contact email@example.com
Some questions submitted by Greg Selzer, President of Northaven Park Neighborhood Association, npna.org.
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