White Rock Lake Park receives highest honor

By Andrea Hawkins

The Texas Recreation and Parks Society (TRAPS) has recognized White Rock Lake Park with its esteemed Lone Star Legacy Park designation, the society’s highest honor conferred on a park for its historic and recreational contributions and community importance. In the 13th year of the Legacy Park program, White Rock Lake is the third City of Dallas park to receive this statewide distinction joining Reverchon and Kiest parks. 

A Lone Star Legacy Park becomes iconic to a community’s residents and visitors.
Photo courtesy of the City of Dallas

“For over a century, White Rock Lake Park has been an integral part of our city, initially as a water source and later as a cornerstone of our renowned park system. Appreciated for its diverse recreational opportunities, the park’s beauty now garners attention statewide and nationwide,” expressed Dallas City Council Member Paula Blackmon. “Dallas remains firmly dedicated to preserving the park’s rich history and nurturing its natural splendor for the enjoyment of future generations,” said Blackmon.

A Lone Star Legacy Park is one that has endured the test of time and become iconic to a community’s residents and visitors. To qualify for consideration, nominated parks must be at least 50 years old and meet at least one of the following criteria:

• Property represents distinctive design and/or construction.

• Park is associated with historic events or sites.

• Park is associated with events specific to the local community/state.

• Park is home to unique natural features.

Created in 1911 as a water source for the growing city, White Rock Lake has evolved into a model for urban outdoor recreation and conservation that attracts more than two million visitors annually. The 2,200-acre park is a prime leisure area with trails, picnic areas, boating, and fishing. The park contains some of the rarest remnants of the Blackland Prairie ecosystem in existence.

“White Rock Lake Park is a truly remarkable place with a long and interesting history that is enjoyed by people from all over the city of Dallas and beyond,” said Maria Hasbany, a member of the Dallas Park and Recreation Board. “It is an honor to receive the designation of  Lone Star Legacy Park and it wouldn’t be possible without the ongoing care and support of both the Dallas Park and Recreation Department and our community partners,” Hasbany added.   

White Rock has been recognized with other state honors including Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Lone Star Land Steward Award that honors private landowners for their accomplishments in habitat management and wildlife conservation. For the first time in the award program’s history, TPWD selected an urban city park as a model of land stewardship and recognized the park in the corporate category.

“White Rock Lake is one of Dallas’ oldest and busiest parks and is a favorite of residents and visitors. The variety of leisure options — baseball, wooded hiking and biking trails, rental facilities, tennis, rowing, and natural wildflower area — is a major contributor the health and well-being of Dallas residents and communities throughout the city,” said John D. Jenkins, director, Dallas Park and Recreation Department. “We look forward to the next 100 years as White Rock continuously grows to meet the recreational needs of the communities we serve.”

In 1929 the Dallas City Council in 1929 transferred land around the lake to the Dallas Park and Recreation Department to develop a park. With help from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), some of the park’s most cherished amenities and features were built including roads, concession facilities, community buildings, restrooms, pavilions. Today there are 11 historic structures built by the CCC still in use. The park has served various purposes from a POW camp during World War II to overflow housing for male students attending Southern Methodist University after the war. 

Dallas Park and Recreation’ mission is to champion lifelong recreation and serve as responsible stewards of the city’s parks, trails, and open spaces. The department maintains 24,000 acres of park land and water, including 412 parks, 182 trail miles, athletic complexes, and natural areas. 

It also manages recreation centers, golf courses, community pools, tennis centers and family attractions including Bahama Beach Waterpark. For more information, visit DallasPark.org.

TRAPS is committed to advancing the field of parks, recreation and leisure services in Texas while advocating for enhanced recreation opportunities and the increase of public green space for Texans. It is the state professional and educational organization and has a membership of more than 2,000 professionals. Visit traps.org for more information.