Saturday, May 26, 2012

Winfrey Point: New Documentation Reveals the True Purpose of the Dallas Arboretum’s Proposed Land Grab

Please click here and listen to this music while you read this blog

This blog is about nature, specifically the environment of White Rock Lake. However, when local politicians and business combine to deliberately mislead the public, it’s difficult to remain silent when it affects nature and the heritage of generations to come. 

Stunning wildflowers at Winfrey Point, White Rock Lake, Dallas, Texas
Stunning wildflowers at Winfrey Point, White Rock Lake

You can read about the history of this ongoing saga by clicking here.

On May 9, 2012, the leadership of the Dallas Arboretum issued a press release that was phrased in such a manner as to make them look like the good guys. It stated that they had requested the local officials not to proceed with plans to mow Winfrey Point, a plan that the Arboretum leadership had hatched in the first place. The wording of this press release was intriguing:

“… any plans to temporarily park at Winfrey Point have resulted in serious misunderstandings …” Any plans? Why did they not simply say “the plans”? Why could the leadership of the Arboretum not have the courage to admit that they had made such plans?

From their last sentence in their press release, it is obvious that the current management of the Arboretum intends to continue with their plans for Winfrey Point. The last sentence reads: “It is our pledge to endeavor to make such planning transparent.”

And why could the leadership of the Arboretum not simply say: “It is our pledge to make such planning transparent”? Why did they include the word “endeavor”?

It is innuendo and legal-speak such as this that makes one question the bona fides of the Arboretum leadership.

The press release can be found here.  

The Dallas Arboretum posted a comment on their website this week, stating that it was a misconception that they planned to build a parking garage at Winfrey Point. The comment read: "The concept for a parking garage at Winfrey Point was never shown to the Arboretum, nor to the Park Board or city Council members ..” 


The latest documentation uncovered by researcher, Hal Barker, has categorically revealed that the idea to turn Winfrey Point into a parking lot was first mooted by Mary Brinegar a couple of years ago. In a detailed email to Paul Dyer, Director Dallas Park and Recreation Department, dated August 8, 2010, Brinegar spells out her vision for Winfrey Point in detail. You can read her email by clicking here.

This was followed up by a presentation to Paul Dyer.

In a document prepared by the Arboretum entitled “Presentation to Paul Dyer and Willis Winters On Winfrey Point Use For The Dallas Arboretum”, it was revealed that one of the proposals (Proposal 5) presented by the Arboretum was to develop “the property into botanical gardens with three stories of parking underneath, accommodating over 4000cars. The model is Millennium Park in Chicago with most of the gardens above the parking facility. It allows those who are members to stop in to the garden for early breakfast or lunch while riding or walking around the lake and at the beginning or end of their ride. Winfrey Point is rebuilt in a circular structure with observation decks giving visitors the ability to see the developed gardens and the downtown vistas.”

So let’s understand this. 
  1. The Arboretum wants Winfrey Point - prime real estate -  for nothing, depriving Dallasites free use of this spectacular location. 
  2. The rate payers of Dallas foot the bill for much of the related expense.         
  3.  If Dallasites wish to enjoy Winfrey Point in future they will have to pay for the privilege.  
  4. Dallasites will be further deprived of their natural heritage. In its place will be beautifully contrived gardens and other facilities generating more revenue for the Arboretum.
So exactly how do the inhabitants of Dallas benefit from all of this? This smacks of a land grab - the Arboretum wins, Dallasites lose!

It would appear that the leadership of the Dallas Arboretum has lost their focus. They have become property developers at the expense of conserving nature.

As Gregory Bateson once said, "The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between how nature works and the way people think." Unfortunately, people are often driven by greed, and it is difficult to arrive at a different conclusion given the facts at our disposal.

After all the subterfuge surrounding Winfrey Point, maybe it’s time for heads to roll. 

And this is enough to make anyone gag. Mary Brinegar, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, signs off her emails with the following slogan: “Let Nature Nurture You.”


Based on the manner in which Brinegar has handled herself, we’re beginning to question whether she cares about nature at all. We now know that turning Winfrey Point into a parking lot was her idea in the first place, despite denials that she had no knowledge of what was going on.

To be precise, what Brinegar is advocating is to take a natural environment, a scarce resource, and turn it into a parking lot and other facilities that would generate revenue for the Arboretum. This is crass to say the least.

We have always supported the Dallas Arboretum. It is a wonderful place to get lost for a few hours. It saddens us that the leadership of the Arboretum would resort to these tactics in order to improve their bottom line. 

The latest documents discovered by Hal Barker leave a bad taste in our mouths, and reminds us of Mao Zedong’s slogan: "Man must conquer Nature." But one needs to heed the warning of legendary author, Fritz Schumacher, who once wrote, "man talks of a battle with Nature, forgetting that if he won the battle, he would find himself on the losing side."

Of course the Arboretum wants Winfrey Point. The land will add considerably to the asset value of the Dallas Arboretum. But Winfrey Point is more than an exceptional location with stunning views of the city. It contains several acres of protected Blackland Prairie grasses, it is covered in beautiful wildflowers, it is home to rare birds and many animals, and it supports all kinds of insect life, including spectacular butterflies.

A Monarch butterfly nectaring on a Texas Thistle at Winfrey Point, White Rock Lake, Dallas, TX
A Monarch butterfly nectaring on a Texas Thistle at Winfrey Point

We doubt that the remake of the soap series Dallas could have a better storyline than this saga. Clearly, the battle to Save Winfrey Point is not over.

It would be appropriate to give the final word to a great Texan, President Lyndon B. Johnson, who upon signing the Wilderness Act, 1964, stated: “If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it."

Wise words, and all the more reason to Save Winfrey Point.

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