White Rock Lake’s Big Thicket building is showing her age, and not in the quaint, historically accurate kind of way.
Paint is peeling, wood is rotting, and walls are leaking. Members of For the Love of the Lake (FTLOTL) have held off destruction – they replaced the roof shingles, trim and a rotting pillar. But the 1930s era Civilian Conservation Corps structure needed an “Extreme Makeover.”
“We’ve been talking about doing some work on that building for years,” says FTLOTL president Kevin Felton.
Then, a few months ago, a White Rock Home Depot employee appeared on FTLOTL’s doorstep searching for community service projects for the company’s new Team Depot program.
Andy Watkins, one of the Team Depot coordinators at the store on Garland Road at Jupiter, says FTLOTL members immediately signed him up for their Adopt-a-Shoreline cleanup project and the slow-going building refurbishing.
“Next thing I knew, we owned T.P. Hill, and we’d taken on the Big Thicket,” says the Lakewood resident who grew up going to White Rock Lake.
The White Rock Home Depot has already donated $350 for supplies to start the Big Thicket work. The store also applied for a grant from Home Depot’s corporate office to expand the project. Watkins says he is also soliciting donations from the store’s suppliers.
Marci Novak, FTLOTL founder, says Home Depot employees made a lengthy list of repairs and upgrades – such as new lighting, a kitchen renovation and complete roof overhaul – that group members could never afford to do themselves.
“The scope of it has just increased exponentially. We’re trying to take it back to its original architectural style as much as possible without doing a million-dollar rehab,” she says. “This time, it’s got huge momentum; it’s definitely a ‘go’ this time.”
More than 20 Home Depot employees volunteered to participate in the project on their own time, Watkins says.
“We have a lot of skilled labor at Home Depot. We’re the perfect people to do the work,” he says. “They are itching to do it. They keep asking, ‘When are we going to start?’”
Homebuilder Joe Dann, who lives in Lakewood just blocks from the lake, says the Big Thicket’s condition requires immediate work to avoid further damage. Having the Home Depot team on board ensures quick success.
“I think we’ll make a lot of headway on it starting very soon,” he says. “This is a little gem of a building, and it will be great when it’s finished.”
Volunteers expect work to start this month and last through the summer. At one time, the Big Thicket served as a concession stand and bicycle rental shop. Now, the city rents the building to the public for events and weddings.
Uptown Exchange Club, which holds its Cash Fish Family Bass Tournament at the lake, also supports the project. The club has given some of the event’s proceeds to FTLOTL, Novak says, and asked that the group use the money on the Big Thicket, the base camp for their event.
Willis Winters, Dallas Park and Recreation Department assistant director, says the city also supports the renovation project. Officials hope to restore other Civilian Conservation Corps buildings at the lake and lure the National Association of Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni to the city for the public works program’s 75th anniversary in 2008.