Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, Texas, is an urban oasis, an island of green in the midst of the towering downtown skyscrapers and concrete freeways. In fact the park is actually part of a freeway, built on a two-block platform over a major expressway, the Woodall Rogers, running through Dallas.
The project began in 2009 with many naysayers arguing the trees and grass wouldn’t survive in a platform park. The park opened in 2012 with over 320 trees and natural grass covering 5.2 acres. Most of the trees have thrived, forming a natural shaded canopy above the park’s perimeter walking path.
Most of the trees are 136 Shumard Red Oaks, plus over 50 Trident Maples, a smattering of Burr Oaks, elm trees, crepe myrtles, and some birches.
According to the park Vice-President for Operations, Michael Gaffney, the landscaping selections were made on the basis of trees and plants that have traditionally done well in the Dallas area.
“Our trees were selected based on field performance and hardiness in different soil types. Survivability on deck was an educated guess, “ he said. It was a good guess, as in the years since planting the trees have grown to their desired height and proven hardy in the scorching Texas summer heat and periods of alternating drought and heavy rain. The only failure was Pond Cypress trees that didn’t work well on the deck environment. They were replaced with the Trident Maples, which Gaffney says “have performed really well.”
The park sits on 300 concrete beams that span the expressway. The beams are situated to provide 5-foot deep planting beds for the trees. The beds are filled with a mixture of topsoil and artificial “geofoam” which promotes drainage and is lighter weight than dirt. The park managers say there is not readily available an official tonnage weight for the park, but it’s heavy. Think a giant Nimitiz class aircraft carrier balanced on beams across the highway, about 100,000 tons.
The Klyde Warren Park isn’t the biggest in the Dallas park system, but certainly one of the most popular. Over 100-thousand people visit the park each month, over a million people a year. Weekends are crowded with families and children. There are several playground areas and splash pads for the kids. An outdoor movie area, food trucks, tables for picnics, a half-mile dirt track for walkers and joggers, and two grassy play areas. There is a restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating.
The park cost over $110-million to build and develop, with about half of the money coming from private donors and corporations. Management and oversight is not done by the Dallas Parks division, but rather by a private foundation.
The success of Klyde Warren has led other cities to take notice, with some preparing platform park plans of their own.
Because of the huge success of Klyde Warren, a massive expansion is underway that will extend the park another block, adding 1.2 acres, including a 20,000 square foot pavilion that will serve as headquarters for a Dallas tourism center. There will also be 75 much needed parking spaces.
As with the original park, there are detractors of the expansion. The Dallas newspaper calls it “all hat and no cattle”. The new area won’t add any new actual public recreation space, as most of it will go to the pavilion and the parking lot.
The expansion project will cost about $76-million, jointly funded by a city bond issue and private donations.