The scenic beauty of White Rock Lake seems the perfect place to memorialize a lost loved one, and the Dallas Park and Recreation Department receives new requests every week from people wanting to donate a tree or bench or water fountain

In the past, the city politely declined such offers.

“It was just too much work to deal with these small donations,” says Kevin Felton, president of volunteer group For the Love of the Lake (FTLOTL). “They had no easy mechanism to do that.”

Until now. The city and the White Rock Lake task force, which includes groups with interests in the lake and park, recently approved a project – the Celebration Tree Grove – where such interest could be directed.

FTLOTL has established an endowment fund dedicated to reforestation and maintenance of White Rock Lake Park’s trees. Donations to the fund can honor people who have died or commemorate special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries or graduations, FTLOTL founder Marci Novak says.

The fund has already received donations from a mother who lost her infant son and from Novak.

“It had grown out of the many people who wanted to donate, who wanted to see something living,” she says. “My brother died in the last year. Now I’m a donor to the tree grove. It has a very special place in my heart.”

The Celebration Tree Grove will be planted on a small, open field in the park near East Lawther and Poppy. Walking paths will lead through the trees to a courtyard with benches and a structure for Commemorative plaques.

Carol Feldman, a landscape architect who has an office near the lake and often bikes there, is designing the tree grove to be a natural extension of the park’s environment. The structure will match the Civilian Conservation Corps-style of the park’s buildings and comply with the park’s master plan.

She plans to use native plants and trees, including many grown trees supplied by the Texas Trees Foundation. By starting with larger trees rather than new saplings, the courtyard will immediately have a secluded, private feel to it, Feldman says.

“It will be a place where people will be able to come and sit and reflect with their memories,” she says. “I think it will be a great benefit for the park and for the citizens of Dallas.”

Once the grove is established, the fund will pay for new trees throughout the park, crews to maintain them and an arborist to care for the park’s urban forest and plan new plantings, Felton says.

A donation of $1,000 or more will receive a commemorative plaque with the honoree’s name. All plaques will be placed on the structure in the grove’s courtyard.

FTLOTL’s annual John McCutcheon concert in December will create the “seed money” for the Celebration Tree Grove fund. Sponsors of the event will be considered tree grove founders and be listed on a special plaque.