Nicholas McWhirter, AIA
Credit: Nicholas McWhirter, AIA
Robert Bullis
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Robert Bullis

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President's Message: The Over/Under on the Trinity Park

A message from AIA Dallas President Bob Bullis, AIA

The latest issue of Columns focuses on the space between our buildings—our natural assets, our waterways, our parks, and the topology of our terra firma. One might argue that Dallas’ single greatest natural asset is the Trinity River and the Great Trinity Forest. Since Dallas’ inception, the founders and subsequent city leaders have attempted to harness the Trinity for economic development and struggled to protect the city from the river’s flooding.  

This journey begins in the mid-1800s with the plan to make the Trinity River navigable, thereby positioning Dallas as an inland port some 700 miles, as the river flows, to the Gulf of Mexico. The Kessler Plan of 1911 included manufacturing zones along the riverbanks and distribution infrastructure to support river commerce generated by this new inland port. Though it addressed several issues, the Kessler Plan included an engineering proposal to harness the destructive powers of the Trinity River following the 1908 flood. In 1930, the channelization of 26 miles of the river, along with associated levee structures, were completed as envisioned two decades earlier.  

After over a century of fits and starts, the dream for an inland port was put to rest with the defeat of a property tax initiative to fund the project in 1973. This dream died, but another was born—a lake within the levees of the Trinity River. In the recently rediscovered 1967 film The Walls are Rising, AIA Dallas proposed a vision for a town lake within the Trinity levees with a city center development overlooking the proposed lake. To this day, that vision lives on as many continue to dream of a similar development on this very site overlooking a new Trinity corridor lake project.   

Dating to 2003 and the Balanced Vision Plan, AIA Dallas has advocated for a balanced approach to realizing the vision of the Trinity River corridor. As the city struggled to control the waters of the Trinity, AIA Dallas struggles to focus the efforts of traffic planners and city leaders on the betterment of the park and our Trinity River. We look forward to the day when Dallas will enjoy the realization of our common dream for a great Trinity Park and parkway. In the words of Larry Beasley regarding the recent Trinity Parkway Design Charrette Report, “We don’t need an aggressive new highway within this wonderful park. Don’t let it happen. Go for something a lot better—a gracious and harmonious parkway done in a gentle and human way—with nature as its inspiration and the park as its client." 

Bob Bullis, AIA 
2015 AIA Dallas President 

For more information about the Trinity inland port, click here