If you aren’t taking advantage of our rec center, start now

Dallas is abuzz over the Downtown’s new Klyde Warren Park and the opening of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. The Dallas Arboretum has been rocking all summer, fall and winter with the Chihuly exhibit. Here in Lake Highlands, Watercrest Park (at our still-forthcoming Town Center) has been the favorite party-hardy scene for groups like the Exchange Club and even the Lake Highlands Branding Committee.

Meanwhile, back at the rec center, community happens.

Originally called Skyline Park, our Lake Highlands North Recreation Center was built in 1971. LHHS graduate and recently installed Dallas Park Board member Robin Norcross tells me the name referred to the visibility of the Dallas skyline from the property. The park was eventually renamed to avoid confusion with Dallas ISD’s Skyline High School.

Despite its central location across from the high school, many residents’ first time to visit the center was during early voting last fall. According to Lindsey Rider, the center’s manager, “A lot of people don’t even realize that we’re here — even people who say they’ve been in the neighborhood for years.”

That doesn’t mean the rec center isn’t used and appreciated by those in the know. Families with young children tap in through youth activities, such as parties at Halloween and Christmas. The center also runs some great, affordable summer camps (my son attended “Swim the Metroplex” three years in a row).

Fitness classes and bridge club meetings were disrupted when the center closed for refurbishing in 2010, but since it reopened (in May 2011) it has been going strong.

“We’ve seen a whole new line of patrons,” Rider says.

Whether or not you have ever visited Lake Highlands North, here is my top 10 countdown of reasons why you should visit now:

10. You might score some Arboretum tickets. The Dallas Arboretum donates tickets throughout the year to all of the city rec centers, but they go fast. There is no age limit or any other criteria, as long as you are a Dallas resident.

9. Even if you can’t get free Arboretum tickets, you can pick up free blue recycle bags.

8. Continuing with “free,” the outdoor trail on the east side of the park feels like a little bit of Arboretum right in our backyard, complete with a water feature and tall trees.

7. If you ever used those gloomy bathrooms inside the building, the new remodeled versions will thrill you. And they kept the shower feature. Nice touch!

6. Not one, but two playgrounds for small children (on both the west and east sides of the park) and of course in summer, the spray park is a joyful way for kids and parents to keep cool.

5.  If you’re interested in playing bridge, the Intermediate Bridge Club will take you in as a substitute (a period of dating, before commitment).

4. You can go on a scavenger hunt to find plaques and fundraising bricks that list LH organizations, families and businesses who have contributed to the improvements. You will know some of the family names, and be surprised by some of the businesses listed. Hint: One starts with a big, giant W. And another starts with an A. It’s a magazine.

3. Hip-hop classes on Saturday mornings for youth ages 6-13. Or, alternatively, twirling. (Yes, there is also soccer and other “normal” classes; check the new winter schedule, available in the lobby and also at lakehighlandsnorth.org.)

2. The holidays are behind us, and it’s time to join a gym. But that also takes money. The rec center has a fully stocked weight room with elliptical machines and stationary bikes, and adult fitness classes (Zumba, fencing and kung fu, to name a few) with the most affordable prices you can find anywhere.

1. And finally, my new favorite feature is the triptych of large mosaics near the front desk, which were assembled by LHHS art teacher Christen Zajac and neighborhood students. Zajac worked with Ginger Greenberg of the Junior Women’s League to design a motif that represents our community, ranging from high school football to the Dallas skyline, including fun details like Pegasus.

Before you leave, look for the real Dallas skyline, off in the distance, just over the treetops.