South Oak Cliff Renaissance Park
The creek running behind the campus of South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas was a longtime source of concern for the neighborhood. What should have been a beautiful place of natural respite was for years littered with trash, overgrown, and an eyesore. Teachers even tried to keep students from walking along the creek out of concern for their safety. The same is true of a vacant lot across the street from the school, which sat empty for decades, becoming a haven for illegal dumping.
In 2018, Trust for Public Land began collaborating with the high school and residents of South Oak Cliff, a neighborhood in Dallas to transform the creek and a nearby vacant lot into a community green space that would become a beacon of health and wellness for the neighborhood.
After a year of community engagement—including a pop-up park, community hikes, cleanup days, and listening sessions—TPL purchased the vacant lot in 2019 and began the process of transforming it into South Oak Cliff Renaissance Park. We worked closely with neighborhood residents and students and faculty from South Oak Cliff High School to create a plan for transforming the area into a neighborhood park that reflects the desires of the people who live in this tight-knit Texas community.
Since construction began in 2020, the property has undergone a remarkable transformation from illegal dumping ground to a high-quality park designed by the community to serve its needs. The 1.8-acre park features all-weather exercise equipment, an outdoor classroom, a basketball half-court, and rock-climbing boulders designed by local students and funded through a grant from The North Face’s Walls Are Meant for Climbing program.
The park also features solar-powered lighting and free public Wi-Fi funded through a grant from Green Mountain Energy Sun Club. Fifteen off-grid lights illuminate the park with 100 percent solar energy, improving public safety on site and in the surrounding areas. The solar-powered system includes the free public Wi-Fi plus two security cameras. What’s more: the use of solar power will avoid the release of 30 metric tons of carbon dioxide and save $71,000 in electricity costs over the next 20 years.
The community has been overjoyed to see South Oak Cliff Renaissance Park come to life, and it is already benefiting the thousands of residents and students who live and learn within a 10-minute walk. “Our community, students, and neighbors are so excited to be able to use this new park for exercise and recreation,” said Derrick Battie, community liaison for South Oak Cliff High School, at the park’s opening celebration in November 2021.
South Oak Cliff Renaissance Park is the first park to open within Trust for Public Land’s Five Mile Creek Urban Greenbelt Master Plan. Adopted by the City of Dallas in 2019, the master plan calls for a network of parks and 23 miles of trails following Five Mile Creek and its tributaries across Oak Cliff, connecting this part of Dallas with the city’s existing trail network.
Other parks within the Five Mile Creek plan include the 40.4-acre Judge Charles R. Rose Community Park in Highland Hills and the 82-acre Woody Branch Park in Glen Oaks, which will open to the public in the coming years. Of the 186,297 people living within the creek’s watershed, only 54 percent have access to a park or trail within a 10-minute walk of home. This greenbelt network will directly improve health, education, and the environment, and play a foundational role in the equitable development of southern Dallas.
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