I heard a wet smack as my front bicycle tire sank into fresh mud, unexpectedly stopping me in my tracks.
My husband was up ahead, navigating the muddy ruts and puddles and finding patches of dense grass to support his bike. Our two young daughters sat asleep in the trailer behind him, their heads lolling, oblivious to the obstacle course their parents were maneuvering through on our trek to the Arboretum.
We’d set out from our M Streets home an hour earlier, winding our way through Lakewood to White Rock Lake’s shoreline trail, then to the edge of the spillway to the trail abutting Garland Road. We suddenly found ourselves at an impasse. The wide trail had narrowed to a sliver of a sidewalk, then abruptly ended outside the walls of the Arboretum, a good thousand feet from the entrance.
A soggy, green expanse lay ahead of us. We weighed our options: Venture into the six lanes of traffic whizzing past us on Garland Road or risk trekking through the mud that yesterday’s rain had left behind. We forged on.
Now stuck, I straddled my bike on tiptoe, gingerly hunting for firmer ground among the spongy muck. Ahead of me, my husband had stopped, anchored by the weight of the girls’ trailer now moored in the mud.
After excavating the trailer, we trudged our way to the Arboretum’s entrance, our shoes and bikes caked with wet soil. Our day to be spent among the roses had taken an unexpectedly earthy turn.
The Dallas Arboretum is one of our city’s most magnificent assets, and we’re fortunate that it sits in the heart of East Dallas. But why are there no sidewalks to its entrance? With all the kerfuffle over adequate parking, wouldn’t they want more pedestrians and cyclists to visit sans car?
“Of course,” Mary Brinegar, president and CEO of the Dallas Arboretum told me when I called to ask her about the lack of sidewalk access along Garland Road.
Historically, one of the reasons the Arboretum had no front sidewalk was due to concerns by nearby residents that sidewalks would encourage Arboretum visitors to park in their neighborhoods, and then walk over to the gardens. More recently, however, some residents have expressed support for a sidewalk, and Mary said she would welcome the city’s investment in a concrete path along the perimeter.
With that issue out of the way, and since I had Mary’s ear, I took the opportunity to question her about another matter that had been on my mind. Every time I visit the Arboretum or White Rock Lake, I wonder why there isn’t an entrance to the Arboretum from the lake. It seems odd to me that these two great natural assets sit side-by-side, yet are in no way connected to one another.
Imagine walking around the lake, then taking a stroll through the Arboretum or spending the day at the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden, then stepping through a back exit to witness the sunset from the lakeshore.
So while I had Mary on the phone, I asked her. She explained that the Arboretum is very sensitive to the concerns of nearby residents who worry that a lakeside entrance might encourage more traffic and parking within White Rock Lake Park by those seeking to avoid parking fees at the Arboretum.
No doubt this is a legitimate and reasonable concern, and one I might have if I lived next door. But it seems like there should be a way to address those concerns while still providing a connection between these two great destinations.
I’m not sure what the answer is, but I’m certain we should have the conversation.
Something magical happens when we begin connecting our city for pedestrians and cyclists. Our city shrinks and expands at the same time: Diverse destinations no longer feel like distant, disparate experiences, but begin to meld into each other, creating new recreational opportunities that are much more than the sum of their parts.
And it’s a heck of a lot less muddy.