One year ago, I wrote about the City of Dallas 2012 Aquatics Master Plan, the blueprint for all pools and spray grounds throughout the city. My concern was that the plan at that time called for closing all neighborhood pools — including Tietze and Lake Highlands — and replacing them with a small number of regional water parks. It was a one-size-fits-all plan that failed to take into account the varying popularity levels of neighborhood pools across the city.

Under the old plan, East Dallas lost out in a big way: Not only did we lose our very popular neighborhood pool at Tietze Park, we didn’t even get a nearby regional water park in return. We lost out coming and going. Unsurprisingly, many residents, especially in East Dallas, were very upset at the prospect of losing their neighborhood pools for faraway amusement parks.

Fortunately, I wrote, there was still time to change the plan and save our pools. I concluded my article with the following call to action: “Now is a good time for East Dallas and Lake Highlands residents who care about Dallas’ aquatics system to become engaged and let their voices be heard.”

I’m happy to report that the residents of Dallas did just that. As a result of direct citizen input, the Dallas Park and Recreation Board recently passed an updated version of the Aquatics Master Plan ­— and this version of the plan keeps our neighborhood pools open. It also includes major upgrades for nine of the city’s 17 existing pools. (Full disclosure: My husband, Paul Sims, was appointed to the park board in 2013 by Dallas City Councilman Philip Kingston, and has been a major proponent of keeping our neighborhood pools open.)

Over the past year, residents made it clear that they did not support the old plan’s cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all solutions. Under the new plan, the city will construct three large “regional” water parks, several medium-sized “community” facilities and a number of smaller “neighborhood” pools.

Over the past year, residents made it clear that they did not support the old plan’s cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all solutions.
Using money the city made from the sale of Elgin B. Robertson Park, this is no pie-in-the-sky proposal. Implementation of the Aquatics Master Plan will begin next year. Both Tietze and Lake Highlands pools are included in the nine pools slated for upgrades, and both pools are members of a select group set to receive their upgrades in the first of two rounds of funding. This is an important distinction that will see the Tietze and Lake Highlands facilities constructed years before their counterparts.

Of all new facilities slated for redevelopment, replacing Tietze’s 68-year-old pool with a modern facility may prove the most challenging. The first obstacle is limited space, as Tietze is the smallest pool selected for redevelopment. Tietze’s new pool must balance aquatic features that residents and families will enjoy, without building an over-sized facility that will strip the park of its neighborhood character or overcrowd the park.

Second is the natural setting at Tietze Park. Numerous large shade trees dot the landscape, limiting the pool’s potential footprint. Some trees will undoubtedly have to come down, but planners have been charged with keeping as many trees intact as possible and integrating the new facility into the existing environment.

The final design challenge is accommodating Tietze Park’s historic buildings. The stone pavilion that abuts the current pool was constructed in 1934, and was an early project of the Works Progress Administration. Fortunately, Willis Winters was appointed as director of the Dallas Park and Recreation Department in 2013. A noted architect and preservationist, Winters has vowed to protect Tietze’s historic buildings.

It’s exciting to see the City of Dallas listen to its citizens and change course so dramatically on one of its signature programs. It’s a testament to both engaged residents and a park department that was willing to listen.