First Look: Harold Simmons Park

By Brent Brown, CEO & President of the Trinity Park Conservancy.

On December 6, the Trinity Park Conservancy hosted the initial reveal of Harold Simmons Park. The response was fantastic as we shared a 64 foot cross-section of the Park, showing potential amenities as well as the landscape changes that will make the Park more accessible and inviting for people, plants, and wildlife.

After the great flood of 1908, the Trinity River was moved to protect Dallas from future flooding. This naturally changed the relationship that the city had with the river, moving its focus from this natural resource to development and cityscapes. With Harold Simmons Park, we once again turn our attention to the river. Tim Dekker, a national expert on hydrology and member of the design team, reminded us how we must first understand the river’s needs and let it guide what we do. The result will be something new – an urban ecology that respects the river setting and serves multiple needs – flood water management first, but also restored ecological function and a human experience of nature right in the middle of Dallas.

Design is starting with the river and learning how it wants to meander with bends and curves. The plan gives the river room to spread from its current deep channel by softening its banks, creating side channels and wetlands. By embracing floods as a natural phase of the river, the environment becomes a programmatic feature that continues to change while creating spaces that support the native habitats. Plantings will be planned according to the various elevations, allowing plants that like wetter conditions to be in areas that will flood more often while those that prefer dry conditions to be on higher ground. And as we do this, it creates spaces and ecologies that naturally support the birds and wildlife that are attracted to this environment.

The design team, which is made up of national, regional, and local experts on topics such as water, landscape, and wildlife, will continue work on plans, readying for a full reveal of the Park in April 2019. By keeping the river at the center of the design, the Trinity becomes part of our daily lives – a place to take lunch and sit outside, to jog or bike on trails, or to simply use as a crossing from one side to the other of the Trinity River.

In the coming months, we will share more information as we all grow in our understanding of this untapped resource and continue the conversation on how, together, we can build Harold Simmons Park as the gathering place for Dallas residents to enjoy nature and one another. You can see the cross-section of Harold Simmons Park here.