White Rock Lake Park’s master plan, which guides how Dallas maintains and renovates the lake and its amenities, is getting an update to consolidate decades of overlapping planning and provide standards for years to come.

Since the lake was built in 1911, city staff and contractors have produced over a dozen reports and plans that focus on various aspects of how it was designed and how it should be preserved. Now, city officials want to consolidate them into one plan that will shape the future of what many Lake Highlands and Lakewood residents have dubbed “the crown jewel of Dallas.”

“What we’re trying to do is create a catalog of the previous master plans and studies that have been performed at and around the lake,” said Dallas City Council Member Paula Blackmon, who represents Lakewood and part of Lake Highlands. “That way, we have a better reference to maintain that institutional knowledge.”

What’s happening?

Dallas officials commissioned Dunaway, a Texas-based civil engineering company, to work on the monthslong project. The process includes researching the lake’s previous plans, assessing the lake’s physical condition, soliciting community feedback and designing the new plan while preserving the lake’s history.

Dunaway Senior Engagement Manager Philip Neeley said his team of seven working on the project is consolidating previous plans while bringing them up to date with the park’s current state. When city officials plan updates, historic restoration and new park amenities in the future, those plans will need to tie back to the new master plan, Neeley said.

“We’re not wiping the marker board clean and starting over,” Neeley said. “This park has been a living beacon for close to 100 years. We’re trying to be stewards for it.”

Project timeline
  • May: Dunaway commissioned to create updated White Rock Lake Park master plan
  • May-June: Data gathered, and previous plans and studies reviewed
  • July-August: Community feedback solicited
  • September-October: Consolidate previous plans and develop new plan
  • November-December: Create preliminary master plan and design standards
  • Early 2024: Deliver final master plan and report to the city
A closer look

Typically, a master plan is a graphic representation that shows the subject’s physical elements with a proposed build-out, Neeley said. The representation usually comes with a report summarizing the plan, detailing needs and providing guidelines.

The purpose of the plan is to “maintain the integrity of the lake” so everyone can use it and enjoy it without being “overwhelmed by so much development,” said Richard Stauffer, a project manager with Dallas’ Park and Recreation Department.

He noted restaurant development around the lake, which many community members oppose, as one thing that would need to be included in the plan for it to happen in the future. Community members can expect the new plan to detail such things as well as activities that aren’t allowed on the lake anymore, such as boat racing.

In addition, the new plan will incorporate new White Rock Lake Park amenities, such as its dog park, that didn’t exist when the most recent plan was created in 1999.

The master plan will not include dredging, which is the removal of sediments and debris from the bottom of the lake. Many east Dallasites have said that is a crucial element in maintaining White Rock Lake. Dredging is a separate project with its own task force, Blackmon said. The city is looking for ways to fund the project, including in its upcoming $1 billion bond program.

What they’re saying
  • “We would love more lighting around the lake, especially on the trails that are back in the woods that lead up to the Santa Fe Trail. There’s basically no lighting back there, so it can be kind of a dangerous, scary situation,” east Dallas resident Jen Amorella-McKimmey said.
  • “I’d like to see a dedicated park ranger for White Rock Lake. I think that would make the whole community feel a little more secure,” said John Botefuhr, White Rock Lake Foundation board member.
  • “I would hate to see any changes that would impact the native prairies which are very endangered and fragile at White Rock Lake. [Some of] the old trees predate the Declaration of Independence for the U.S.,” said Ben Sandifer, a master naturalist who lives in east Dallas.
Get involved

Community members interested in sharing their thoughts on the White Rock Lake Park master plan can fill out the park and recreation department’s online survey, which is available on the department’s website.

The department plans to host a public meeting in November to share updates about the project, Stauffer said. Details will be posted on the department’s website.