New trail, parking coming to Flag Pole Hill Park in Dallas

Flag Pole Hill Park.
The city of Dallas began construction on phase one of improvements at Flag Pole Hill Park in mid February. Work is scheduled to be finished between winter 2022 and spring 2023. (Matt Payne/Community Impact Newspaper)

The city of Dallas began construction on phase one of improvements at Flag Pole Hill Park in mid February. Work is scheduled to be finished between winter 2022 and spring 2023. (Matt Payne/Community Impact Newspaper)

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An all-abilities playground was added in 2018 at Flag Pole Hill Park with aid from area nonprofits. (Matt Payne/Community Impact Newspaper)
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The construction currently underway to improve Flag Pole Hill Park is likely just the beginning of the work Dallas officials expect to see in the years to come.

More than $1.1 million is going toward two new parking lots and a new mile-long trail at Flag Pole Hill Park. The city of Dallas began construction on phase one of improvements in mid-February. Work is scheduled to be finished by spring 2023.

The existing parking lot will be removed to create an entry area for the new lots, city plans indicate. Moreover, an at least 6-foot-wide trail is designed to loop around the park and connect with an existing trail on the park’s south end. Ornamental trees and masonry columns are also coming to the entrance of the flagpole monument.

Arun Agarwal, the president of the Dallas Parks and Recreation Board, said the new trail will also connect to the existing White Rock Creek and SoPac trails, which are located near Flag Pole Hill Park.

Agarwal said he and his team are working to gain approval from City Council to widen the trail to as much as 12 feet wide.

“It is going to become a comprehensive part of the trail system, which our city is developing right now,” Agarwal said. “I think it will be really fantastic when it’s done.”

Continual improvement

Improvements to Flag Pole Hill Park could come in as many as four phases, according to Agarwal. Future phases of work could include solar-powered lights equipped with security cameras and more trails.

Phase one of construction draws funds from the voter-approved 2017 bond program, which allocated $261.8 million to 191 parks and recreation projects citywide, according to the bond website.

Agarwal said officials may ask for nearly double that amount when Dallas presents another bond package to voters in the future. He added more funds are needed to support the rapidly growing North Texas region, and Dallas residents would be “fully involved” in discussions before the city proposes a larger bond package.

Community members in the Lake Highlands community would also be engaged before a larger bond package is presented, according to Agarwal.

“The area is becoming more vibrant. ... It’s not the same neighborhood [than years prior],” Agarwal said. “It’s becoming pretty dense as we are seeing it. And with that density means more amenities.”

Residents within City Council District 10 have requested improvements to Flag Pole Hill Park for several years, according to Council Member Adam McGough. He said there have been three major areas of focus at the park: adding an all-abilities playground, which was finished in 2018; general park renovations; and expanding the trails.

Amenities at the roughly $750,000 all-abilities playground include a specially designed climbing structure and basket swing.

“Community from all over the neighborhood gets to play together in that park,” McGough said. “It has been extremely popular. I get a sense of joy and pride every time I look out there and there are kids top to bottom all over the equipment.”

Future goals

As work on the park continues, McGough said future construction at Flag Pole Hill Park will aim to “honor the natural state” of the park by respecting wildlife. Master plans include the restoration of the prairie land and trees throughout the park as well as the wooded areas in the park’s eastern region.

“It’s just a great melting pot of city and rural, past and present,” McGough said.

Flag Pole Hill Park has become a major destination due to diverse playground equipment, said Robb Stewart, parks and recreation board member for District 10.

“It’s crowded every day with kids,” Stewart said on the all-abilities playground. “Before, it was hardly used at all.”

Stewart said he has been involved in several public meetings as work on a master plan for Flag Pole Hill Park was devised. In future phases, he said the board is also considering the addition of handicap restrooms to further accommodate visitors as well as signage with historical background on the park.

The addition of a looping trail will also support pedestrian and cyclist safety. Stewart said Lanshire Drive and Goforth Road near the park are more rural than other parts of Dallas and lack sidewalks.

“The loop trail on that side provides a great safety opportunity to get pedestrians and cyclists off the street,” Stewart said. “There have been a lot of instances with close encounters between cars and cyclists.”

Communal support

The parks and recreation board does not receive funds from the city’s annual general fund for park improvements, Agarwal said. A majority of funding comes from bond packages, public-private partnerships and donations.

The Lake Highlands Junior Women’s League nonprofit has raised thousands of dollars this year toward improvements at Flag Pole Hill Park, said Meredith Suntich, the chair of the annual Run the Highlands marathon and festival. A final amount of funds raised is still being tallied.

Suntich said her organization was among other nonprofits, such as the Jordan Spieth Family Foundation and For the Love of the Lake, that helped raise funds for the playground.

“We’ve seen that the park has really continued to grow, and it’s one of the busiest parks in Dallas,” Suntich said. “We wanted to give even more play spaces and even more accessible equipment for the kids in and around Dallas.”

Agarwal said he is focused on raising as much private funding as possible for parks to get a head start on new projects.

“If we wait for the next bond program, we’re talking three years or four years from now,” he said. “We’ll try to get some private funding to see those improvements.”

The money collected from the Run the Highlands event will be donated for the parks and recreation board to consider adding wheelchair swings and new slides to the all-inclusive playground, according to Suntich.

Stewart said that kind of equipment makes for a great park even though children not in wheelchairs might not be able to use such swings.

“The community groups that have been involved have been sensitive to that. And I think they’ll continue to be sensitive to that,” Stewart said. “We’ll never have something that works for everyone, but we’ll have something for everyone.”

Alexander Willis contributed to this report.
By Matt Payne
Matt Payne reports on Frisco City Hall and its committees, Collin County Commissioners and McKinney business. His experience includes serving as online content editor at Fort Worth Magazine and city editor at the Killeen Daily Herald. He is a 2017 graduate of the Frank W. and Sue Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas in Denton.