Tara Green has served as president of Klyde Warren Park since June of 2013. Now, almost three years into her tenure, she shares some insights into what she has learned and what is next for the 5-acre greenspace that was built out of thin air—defying the odds and delighting the city of Dallas.
Question: Tara, will you remind us of the history of Klyde Warren Park’s creation? When did the idea first arise?
Tara Green: Klyde Warren Park has a great history that reflects the creativity, can-do spirit, and tenacity of generations of private citizens and city leaders. There are a few people who played a really special role in making the vision a reality. People like Sheila and Jody Grant, John Zogg, and the leaders of The Real Estate Council (TREC) all played key roles.
The concept of a deck park probably goes back 50 years or more, but around 2002, the wheels began to turn. John Zogg, as a member of the “Inside the Loop Committee,” put together an ad hoc committee to explore the feasibility of creating a deck park over Woodall Rodgers Freeway, connecting Uptown and downtown. Meanwhile, in 2003, TREC created a new $1 million “impact grant” initiative. Zogg and his committee were encouraged to apply, competing against many worthy projects under consideration. In October of 2004, TREC selected the Woodall Rodgers Deck Park to receive the $1 million grant.
Also in 2004, Texas Capital Bank Founder Jody Grant was serving on the Board of the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce and recommended prioritizing a deck park project that had been previously noted as an edge project. He and his wife, Sheila, realized the catalytic impact it would have for the city. The Grants stepped up to the plate with a personal donation of $1 million and another $1 million from Texas Capital Bank, and became the driving force behind the creation of Klyde Warren Park.
Klyde Warren Park has a great history that reflects the creativity, can-do spirit, and tenacity of generations of private citizens and city leaders.
In 2005, TREC President Linda Owen, John Zogg, and Jody Grant formed the Woodall Rogers Park Foundation, the 501c (3) nonprofit that has since led the way with support from numerous civic and city leaders throughout the years. Construction of the deck began in October of 2009. Three years later, in October 2012, Klyde Warren Park officially opened to the public.
Q: The engineering of the Park was, in itself, an innovative feat, wasn’t it?
TG: Indeed, it was. When you consider that Klyde Warren Park was literally created out of thin air, the engineering feat is staggering. Our very infrastructure is unique. It includes over 300 strategically placed steel beams with concrete slabs spanning the spaces between the beams, forming trenches that act like planter boxes for trees. A combination of Geofoam and specially designed soil allows water to drain quickly, keeping the deck from becoming too heavy.
Q: The programming at Klyde Warren Park has also been heralded as innovative. Will you tell us about your educational initiatives?
TG: Every day, Klyde Warren Park is a hub of activity, and certainly a place of learning and education. We offer more than 1,300 free programs and events annually, including fitness classes, live music, children’s activities, movie nights, holiday celebrations, and more.
We love to see excited students burning off energy in wide-open spaces or having lunch after visiting the Dallas Museum of Art or the Perot Museum.
We love to see excited students burning off energy in wide-open spaces or having lunch after visiting the Dallas Museum of Art or the Perot Museum. When we realized how many students and teachers were visiting, we saw an opportunity to create a free supplemental curriculum to make visits for students even richer. With great support from ExxonMobil and Big Thought, the idea became reality. Teachers and kids love our curriculum; we cover science, technology, math, visual art and design, social studies, English, and language arts.
Q: Klyde Warren Park has been more of a success than anyone ever dreamed. What has it done for the city?
TG: That’s a very big question with many answers. Aside from connecting Uptown with downtown, and finally giving Dallas a more walkable city center, Klyde Warren Park is a beautiful, welcoming urban greenspace for everyone—connecting neighborhoods and commerce with the beautiful museums and cultural jewels that surround us. It’s a place for creativity and socialization and renewal of the senses. It’s a breath of fresh air; an oasis in the city.
Q: Have you learned any lessons from Klyde Warren Park that you would share with us?
TG: Of course. As a deck park built over a freeway, the Park has unique challenges that most parks won’t face. We knew that Klyde Warren Park would be popular, but we didn’t anticipate that our lawn would be over-utilized with concerts, festivals, and Zumba classes.
The innovative planting system that was used to create our lawn doesn’t allow for grass to root as it would in a normal lawn. We have now learned a great deal about balancing the use of the lawn with growing time so it remains green and beautiful.
That’s one example, but the fact is, we’re always learning. Every day seems to bring something new, and we’re fully aware that innovation always comes at a price. In our case, that price is roughly $3.5 million in operating costs each year. Although the park is complete and fully operational, it takes significant funds to maintain everything from keeping the grass green, to 24-hour security, to providing free programming to the public every single day.
We knew that Klyde Warren Park would be popular, but we didn’t anticipate that our lawn would be over-utilized with concerts, festivals, and Zumba classes.
The Foundation raises these funds through a variety of revenue streams, including sponsorships, private donations, event rental, contributions from a public improvement district, and food and beverage revenue. To assist in this endeavor, we have recently launched our first fund campaign, “I Heart the Park.”
In our first year, we raised $90,000 through online donations, social media awareness, and merchandising—in support of our year-round free programming. Many people really don’t know that we need the support of the community to keep Klyde Warren Park clean, safe, and active. We believe that our “I Heart the Park” campaign will raise that level of awareness. Readers may visit our dedicated website at iheartthepark.com.
Q: Finally, what’s next on the horizon for Klyde Warren Park?
TG: Memberships! We are thrilled to announce that we just launched our first corporate membership program. This is another great way for companies to get involved and support the park!
Support provided to Klyde Warren Park by Jackie Sherman.
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