Finding Their Center - From East Dallas Advocate April 2008

Three historic districts are teaming up to rebuild Buckner Park

By Becky Bull

Elizabeth Nelson was shocked when she moved into Peak’s Addition and saw Buckner Park for the first time.

She had moved from Savannah, Ga., a city known for its parks.

“Parks are the center of the community in Savannah,” says Nelson, who is second vice president of the Peak’s Addition Homeowners Association and has guided the neighborhood’s effort to renovate the park.

“They are highly landscaped and beautiful. I was surprised that some of the parks in Old East Dallas are flat.”

And flat puts it nicely when it comes to Buckner Park, located at Worth and Carroll. It has no sidewalks or landscaping. Huge soccer fields take up most of the land. Its baseball diamond is never used. And an eight-foot chain link fence surrounds a playground that is shared by Zaragoza Elementary and the neighborhood.

Very few neighborhood residents use the park regularly. But after much talking and planning, residents from Peak’s Addition, Munger Place and Swiss Avenue are making a push to start renovating the park this year.

“We’ve got to get something started,” says J.W. Brasher, president of the Peak’s Addition neighborhood association. “Even if it’s just throwing some dirt with a shovel.”

The project will be kick-started by $600,000 available for the park from a 2003 city of Dallas bond program. Neighborhood residents will raise additional money from individuals and businesses. Proceeds from both the Peak’s Addition and Munger Place home tours will go toward the renovation.

Michael Hellman, a manager in the park planning and acquisition section of the city’s Park and Recreation Department, began working on a redesign plan many years ago, updating the original plans developed by George Kessler of Kessler Park in Oak Cliff. Kessler was a famous Dallas landscape architect in the early 1900s who created a design for Buckner Park that never was implemented.

“I felt it was very tired,” Hellman says of the park. “It needs a facelift. Currently, it’s not responsive to the community.”

The plan calls for a new parking lot and drop-off zone for Zaragoza. Currently, the school’s staff doesn’t have enough parking, and students are dropped off on Worth Street, very close to where dump trucks pick up the school’s garbage. The new drop off, which Dallas Independent School District will pay for, will be on the opposite side of the school and will create a new school entrance.

The park’s centerpiece will be a new pavilion. Trees, plants and winding sidewalks will replace the soccer fields and baseball diamond. Existing tennis, basketball and volleyball courts will stay. When the new design is finished, the park will be a centerpiece for the community.

“I think it’s necessary for neighborhoods to have that outdoor space for people to gather rather than driving to another neighborhood,” Nelson says. “It should be the core of the neighborhood.”