When it comes to a potential model for the future of city parks, Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, Texas may not stand out among others purely based on looks, but it represents a leap forward in thinking about funding and how to develop parks in car-oriented cities.
Proposed as a deck above the Woodall Rodgers Freeway, the cap park required $110 million worth of funding to be split between the city of Dallas, the state of Texas, and the private sector. In the end, the city contributed $20 million in bond funds, the state contributed $20 million in highway funds, $16.7 million came from stimulus funding, and the private sector filled the gap when public funds fell short. More than $50 million was donated from private sources, and the Woodall Rodgers Park was renamed Klyde Warren, after the son of donor Kelcy Warren. Unlike other public-private partnerships in the city, such as the zoo and the arboretum, Klyde Warren Park does not receive any operating subsidy, nor does it charge admission.
“It’s the perfect public-private partnership,” foundation chairman Jody Grant said of Klyde Warren Park. “You could roll this out as the poster child.”
To maintain and keep the park open, the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation committed to a 50-year agreement, with a $3 million per year operating budget. The main source of revenue will be renting and permitting private parties, events, and vendors, so earnings will rely on demand. In this sense, the future of the park will depend on continuous community participation and involvement.
In addition to having a successful public-private partnership, Klyde Warren Park is an architectural marvel. The 5-acre park is built atop more than 300 concrete beams above a freeway, and it has completely transformed the landscape. Incorporating sustainable best practices, the park contains 37 native plant species and 322 trees, providing habitat, recreation, and plenty of shade on sunny days.
Unsurprisingly, Klyde Warren Park is bursting with events and activities, ranging from leisure and education to cultural enrichment and community engagement. With several onsite dining options, a children’s park, “Music Thursdays” at a performance pavilion, a dog park, and even free Wi-Fi, Klyde Warren Park serves as an oasis for Dallas residents as a multipurpose outdoor recreation space as well as a major tourist attraction, hosting 1 million visitors in just under two years.