02-06-20 | Department

Reinventing Stemmons Park

by Anne Harman, RLA, Pacheco Koch

A historical area of Dallas, vacant and neglected, is being prepared to become a city park thanks to the efforts of the Friends of Stemmons Park, the Dallas Park and Recreation Department, DART and the Dallas Parks Foundation, with a design created, pro bono, by Pacheco Koch.
Amenities planned for the park include a historical caboose and educational center, an urban farm, a pavilion and historic art wall, a picnic area, promenade, bicycle path, play lawn and much more.

In 1973, the area surrounding what would become known as Stemmons Park began to go through numerous transformations and redevelopment, yet the 4.9-acre park itself sat vacant; including abandoned railroad components.

Then in 2019, the Friends of Stemmons Park was created to help support and transform this blighted area of Dallas. The landscape architecture, civil engineering and land surveying firm, Pacheco Koch, partnered with the Friends of Stemmons Park, the Dallas Park and Recreation Department, DART and the Dallas Parks Foundation on this venture.

As the project team peeled back the layers of time and neglect, historical site records showed that the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway (MKT), which began its extensive rail network and operations in 1865, used this area as an important node serving as a key element connecting parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri. In the early 1900s, the beloved Katy Trail Railroad Engine ran through the eastern part of Oak Lawn and continued through the cotton fields of north Dallas County. In 1988, the MKT merged with what has become the Union Pacific Railroad and went on to abandon the Katy rail route, leaving the track and overhead trestles in place. To this day, the concrete piers for the steel girders of the MKT are still in place although hidden from public view by overgrown vegetation.

Pacheco Koch hopes to bring social interaction through physical change to the area. This goal incorporates a fully functioning and active public park that supports the connection of trail systems, green spaces, restaurants and the Dallas community by the year 2022.

Through donations and sponsorships, Stemmons Park has begun to be converted from neglected vacant land into a park space connecting nearby points of interest, including Reverchon Park, the Katy Trail and Trinity Strand Trail. Programmatic elements implemented into the park attract users by comprising passive and active recreational opportunities, such as the Stemmons Climb, a high point created to overlook the park and provide views to the Dallas Skyline; a pavilion for live entertainment; and an educational center for local school and organizational use.

As seen in LASN magazine, December 2019.

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