Saturday, July 16, 2011

Behind This Wall - The Hidden Section of Fort Worth's Water Garden




What's behind this wall on Lancaster Avenue and why should we tear it down?

   In 2001, The Highway Department removed the outdated portion of Interstate 30 over Lancaster Avenue, rebuilding it on the south side of the old T&P Terminal. 

The east bound lanes of Lancaster Avenue, in the shadow of the old freeway. 


   With the removal of the freeway and the acquisition of 4 additional acres of right of way,  the city pounced on an opportunity to revitalize Lancaster into a grand avenue. Sidewalks were widened and landscaped. A series of dramatic sculptures adorned the median. Condos and apartments popped up and future developments are actively being pursued. 

Lancaster Avenue during the early days of revitalization.

   Even though the city worked passionately to remove any sign of the interstate, one relic remained. A wall on the north side of Lancaster between Main and Houston Streets. At one time the wall butted up against the street, keeping what was on the other side separate from the traffic outside.
   

The wall between Houston and Main on Lancaster Ave.
What I saw when I peeked over the wall.

   I decided to climb the small ledge and peek over the wall. Behind it laid one of the few, if only, green spaces in downtown Fort Worth, an overlooked area of the Water Gardens called The Stage. I asked a bicycle cop patrolling the area if many people used this lawn. He replied that a few people come here at lunch, but he couldn't remember any organized activity ever using the lawn or the stage. 



   At one time, walling off this area made sense. Lancaster Avenue was a pedestrians nightmare, noisy, dark and filled with the fumes trapped by the overhead freeway. The Water Gardens were designed to be the antithesis to the noise and exhaust.
   But the southern end of downtown has changed immensely sense the Gardens were designed. Not only has the freeway been moved, but apartments, hotels, condos, landscaped sidewalks and a law school are now neighbors with the park. It might be time to examine tearing down the wall on the Lancaster and altering the area.

PROS:


1:  The park has entrances on every side but the Lancaster Avenue side. With the freeway gone and the addition of new development, it make sense to open up the remaining side.

2: There is a lack of green space in downtown. One can argue that this space already exists and this wouldn't add any additional space. But this beautiful area is hidden. Even if you're in the Water Gardens, you could easily over look it,  being that it is on the other side of a large feature called The Mountain.
    Removing the wall would not only create an inviting public space, it would also create more access to the park.
Most Water Garden visitors never find lawn, unless they follow these steps behind The Mountain
CONS:


1. The Water Gardens were designed by noted architect Phillip Johnson and it would be wrong to alter his original design. An interesting argument but not a valid one. The Water Gardens have already been altered for safety issues. And it had a major alteration when the Convention Center was expanded on the west side, creating a new entrance into the Gardens.

2: Altering the Water Gardens would create added cost to an already stretched city budget. True, the city budget is a bit tight, but the park was created with funds from the Amon Carter Foundation. Plus downtown as TIF funds that can be used for the project. There are ways to acquire funding.

   It's a simple project that could yield beautiful results.

The newest entrance to the Water Garden, created after the Convention Center expanded.

The Water Garden's Quiet Pool

The Aerating Pool, which was also altered for safety concerns.


The signature Active Pool. 



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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dallas' Hidden Oasis; aka 'The Redneck Country Club'

At the end of this overgrown, bumpy road in east Dallas, you'll find the 'Redneck Country Club"

   Let me start by saying that I love to swim. I carry trunks in my car, just in case the opportunity arises, lest I be unprepared. Not having my own swimming pool though leaves me few options.
   I could go to the public pool in Lakewood. But an unaccompanied adult male hanging at the public pool, that looks a little weird.

  Being new to East Dallas,  a neighbor suggested I try the 'Redneck Country Club'. The RCC is the nickname given to the Eagles Lodge 3108 which graciously allows their east Dallas neighbors to use their pool for a mere $7.00. The only problem, even though it's really close to the Dallas Arboretum, you'd only find it if you had really good directions.

Follow this obscure road and look for the sign below

When you see this, you know you've found it. 
  Once you do find it, you may balk at the $7.00 entrance fee. But it's well worth it when you consider that the Eagles Lodge has a liquor license. This is a really big deal in east Dallas, which had been dry for over 50 years. Not only can you buy a beer and lay out by the pool, but you can also buy mixed drinks! And you don't have to show your unicard, like you did at the only other bar in East Dallas, Chili's.

The Oasis of East Dallas

   Be prepared for a scene unlike any in Dallas. First, you must walk through the Eagles Lodge Bar to pay and get your adult wrist band. Be prepared to feel as if you walked back to 1971. The photos of past Eagles presidents look down upon you and proudly proclaim that the city's smoking ordinance isn't enforced here.

   Out by the pool you'll notice perhaps the most unusual mix of people in Dallas. Families with young kids, retired Eagles Lodge member and tattooed hipsters who found the last place in North Texas to smoke. (warning, there is a lot of smoking here, just like in 1971). But who cares; the weather's hot and the pool and the beer are cold. Come on over and enjoy a swim. 

   To find the Eagles Lodge, turn east onto Lakeland Drive from Garland Road (across for the Dallas  Arboretum). Cross the train tracks and then right on Arturo Road. Take Arturo past the overgrown vacant lots, the home with the horse pen and abandoned house, to the dirt road into the Lodge grounds.  Or follow this map. Park anywhere.

   For more information on Eagle Lodge 3108, click here



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