Preserving the Greenbelt for Our Community
In the spring of 2010, there came a great flood. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), 19 inches of rain fell in one hour on the Greenbelt and nearby land. Turbulence created by a concrete low-water crossing of the equestrian trail between FM 428 and FM 455 caused bank steep erosion. For safety reasons, TPWD closed the trail. Advance to summer 2011. The Lantana Lodge parking lot was completely full of big pickups, some with horse trailers in tow. Inside, more than 100 equestrians were gathered to hear plans announced by Chris True of TPWD about the future of their beloved Greenbelt equestrian trail. The Park Service was still reeling from cutbacks after the financial crisis and money was not available to repair the low-water crossing.
The Greenbelt is owned by the City of Dallas, the City of Denton and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and managed by TPWD, so it does not have a dedicated funding source. Instead of reopening the equestrian trail, TPWD had a plans to move the horses to the west side of the trail to be shared with cyclists and runners. The equestrians politely responded that, although the plan was reasonable, their horses were not. They said horses are frightened by cyclists and the two don’t mix. Richard Rogers, Chairman of the Greenbelt Alliance (GBA), a non-profit group of conservationists with a heart for the Greenbelt, raised his hand. Rogers said he believed the repair money could be funded privately. Chris True said, “Alright, you equestrians put together an advisory board for me, come up with a plan, and let’s try to get it done.”
The Lake Ray Roberts Equestrian Trail Association, LRRETA, was born. The first plan, developed with much collaboration, involved building a dam at the crossing to control floodwaters. The equestrian trail would pass over the top of the dam. LRRETA submitted the plan to the USACE and it was turned down. The plan would require moving dirt from private land to USACE land which is prohibited by regulation. Equestrians would be required to cross onto private land for a portion of the crossing, another negative. With progress seemingly dead in the water, in March of 2013, the Greenbelt Alliance hosted a picnic at the crossing site. The GBA invited representatives from the City of Denton, the USACE, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, TPWD, and LRRETTA. With maps, chips and turkey sandwiches spread across the hood of a pick-up, a new plan was hatched. Kathryn Barnett with the City of Denton said she believed Denton had access to an old county bridge. The bridge was long enough to span the entire creek. Since no portion of the bridge would be in the water flow, erosion should no longer be a problem.
Overtime, it became apparent that the old bridge would require additional delay and might not happen at all. A GreenFest Committee member, Don Cross, had seen a new bridge similar to what was needed inside a Cabella’s store. After a career in heavy construction, Don explained that a new bridge would be faster, simpler to permit and easier to transport. All agreed to dump the old bridge and buy a new one. Where would the money come from? The Greenbelt Alliance had saved up several thousand dollars through two of its annual GreenFest on the Greenbelt events. GreenFest is a day of outdoor family fun to raise money and awareness for the Greenbelt. More money would be needed, however, so the GBA invited LRRETA to dinner at Rancho de la Roca – a non-profit run by Tim and Tesh Beaty of Peace of the Rock Ministries. Equestrians were asked by the GBA board to sell sponsorships for GreenFest.
The equestrians said yes, but in addition, they offered to apply for grants. Soon, LRRETA hit pay dirt. They applied for and won a $165,000 grant from the TPWD Recreation Trails Grant, and $35,000 from the Judie Odom fund at Communities Foundation of Dallas. Before dispensing any grant money, the Trails Grant required all permits to be complete. So the GBA paid for all engineering and soil testing from GreenFest earnings and set up a meeting with the USACE to understand problems and push for acceptance. Within months, the permits were issued by the USACE and then blessed by the Cities of Denton and Dallas.