Uniting for Green: Dallas Mayor and New Coalition Aim to Transform the City into Texas’ Premier Park Place

“Great cities need and deserve great parks." The organized advocacy of the new Dallas Parks Coalition will equip the city with a competitive advantage, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson says. Since early 2023, coalition membership has grown from 12 to nearly 20 park-focused organizations throughout the city of Dallas.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson joined leaders of the newly-formed Dallas Parks Coalition at Pacific Plaza in downtown Dallas on Monday wearing a Ranger hat to advocate for a “meaningful portion” of the upcoming bond program to be dedicated to parks throughout the city.

“Great cities need and deserve great parks,” Johnson said. “The organized advocacy of the Dallas Parks Coalition will equip Dallas with a competitive advantage as we pursue our goal to become the major city with the best park system in Texas. I am proud of the remarkable unity among our city’s public and private partners striving to make Dallas greener and greater for all.”

Johnson said the city’s focus on parks will attract new residents and businesses, as parks serve as community gathering spaces.

“It’s going to equip Dallas with a genuine competitive advantage as we pursue our mission to become the major city with the best park system in the entire State of Texas,” the mayor said during the press conference.

[Photo: Dallas Park Coalition]

Advocating for parks in 2024 bond package

The city said that the Dallas Parks Coalition was formed earlier this year under the leadership of April Allen, CEO of the Southern Gateway Public Green Foundation, as well as Philip Hiatt Haigh, executive director of The Circuit Trail Conservancy, Tony Moore, CEO of the Trinity Park Conservancy, and Robert Kent, Texas State director of The Trust for Public Land.

Its membership has grown from 12 to nearly 20 park-focused organizations throughout the city of Dallas.

“As parks advocates, we felt the need to join together to combine our networks and influence to collectively advocate for a greater share of the upcoming bond program. The Coalition is focused on ensuring the overall funding allocated to parks is sufficient to support our citywide dedication to greenspaces and ensuring all of our residents have access to the parks they love and enjoy,” Allen said in a statement.

An open membership organization, the Dallas Parks Coalition is supported by Lyda Hill Philanthropies and The Dallas Foundation in recognition of the importance of its collective advocacy efforts.

The coalition is united to support all Dallas parks and green spaces, as well as to advocate for the park department’s request of $398 million in funding in the proposed 2024 bond package.

The Dallas bond referendum is expected to be in May 2024, but could be pushed to November, according to NBCDFW 5.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson speaking at Pacific Plaza. [Photo: Dallas Park Coalition]

‘Greening’ Dallas involves ‘an amazing amount of unity and cooperation’

Dallas has one of the largest municipal park systems in the U.S. with more than 400 parks totaling over 20,000 acres of developed and undeveloped parkland. The city’s parks host more than 30 million visitors a year and are responsible for $306 million in annual tourism value.

The city said that every $1 invested in park infrastructure creates $7 in return on investment. Only 73% of Dallas residents have a park or trail within a 10-minute walk of home, the city said.

“The Dallas Parks community is full of committed and active advocates that understand the vital role greenspaces and the outdoors play in our lives. The upcoming bond program is our chance to build a park system that will make Dallas a healthier, more resilient, and more equitable city. Our Coalition is looking forward to making the case for why parks should be considered a top funding priority,” Kent said in a statement.

According to its website, the Dallas Parks Coalition is an inclusive coalition that aims to create a greener and more equitable Dallas. It brings together various stakeholders, including green space advocates, friends’ groups, public/private partnerships, parks-focused nonprofit organizations, and park users.

The coalition aims to improve and maintain Dallas parks, focusing on accessibility, equity, and sustainability while promoting eco-friendly practices.

Members to date include Dallas International District, Dallas Water Commons, Dallas Zoo, Fair Park First, Ferguson Road Initiative, Friends of Sante Fe Trail, Klyde Warren Park, Parks for Downtown Dallas, Southern Gateway, Texas Trees Foundation, The LOOP Dallas, The Nature Conservancy, Trinity Park Conservancy, Audubon Trinity River Audubon Center, Trust of Public Land, Turtle Creek Conservancy, and White Rock Lake Conservancy.

“I think when it comes to greening our city, we have an amazing amount of unity and cooperation,” Johnson said at the event.

Quincy Preston contributed to this report.

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