DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A controversial swath of North Texas black land prairie remains untouched by city of Dallas mowing crews on Monday.
But worried citizens at Winfrey Point in White Rock Lake Park fear the mowers may come at any time, so they gear up daily for a grassroots vigil. The city could mow the area at any time –– it wants to turn the swath into parking lots to create more spaces for visitors of the Chihuly Glass Exhibit at the Dallas Arboretum.
“If a company shows up, just politely ask them if they have a permit to mow and make sure you have your recording devices record it,” local organizer Ted Barker told fellow residents.
They began arriving at the break of dawn, determined to confront any crews that might be intent on mowing down some grass they say has been untouched for years.
Among them were Elizabeth and Madeleine Magill, East Dallas residents.
“We’re going to lay in grass and try to stop them,” says Madeleine. “That’s our plan. As soon as they roll up, I mean, if they want to roll over people, they can do that. They can try.”
The group stays connected and organized through social media. “I went back and re-tweeted anything that had Dallas Arboretum, Winfrey Point, anything with White Rock Lake,” said Barker.
On Monday the vigil proved unnecessary.
The city of Dallas promised no clandestine mowings, saying that since its grass has grown so long the property would have to be staked out first.
For supporters, the land and the wildlife it supports are key.
“We know this is black land Prairie that’s never been plowed before,” added Madeleine Magill. “We don’t think it’s fair to get rid of one of nature’s last things that we have in Dallas for a parking lot that could be elsewhere.”
Elizabeth echoes the sentiment.
“It made me really, really upset because we take family pictures out here,” she said, “kind of like it’s our family.”
Alison Gowler agreed.
“And we don’t need another parking lot in Dallas. We need to preserve the natural beauty that’s here at White Rock Lake,” she said.
The residents haven’t limited their protests to just here.
On Saturday, they marched to the Arboretum just as its special Chihuly Glass Exhibit opened.
No numbers are available yet on just how many people attended over the weekend, but parking at the Arboretum is limited: There are 675 spaces at the Arboretum, and another 500 at a lot down the street with shuttle bus service back and forth.
Nearby streets don’t allow overflow parking at all.
Winfrey Point supporters don’t want the grass touched until it can naturally re-seed in June.
“And we will be out here until we get the Arboretum’s assurance and the Parks and Recreation’s assurance that they’re not going to mow it down before the natural time in June and it will seed itself at that time and it will never park cars on it,” declared Rosie Wallin, an Old Lake Highlands resident. “This is God’s paradise, it doesn’t cost the taxpayers a nickel, we’ve got to make sure they leave it alone.”
The city isn’t tipping its hand on when, or even if, it will mow. Legally, it can at any time, but there is a lot of public opposition.