Blood is Thicker Than Water: Living Near White Rock Lake Means Protecting Dallas’ Most Popular Asset (And Property Values, Too)

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By now I’m sure you’ve read just about all of the postmortems on the infamous shout fest of a town hall last month regarding a proposed restaurant at Boy Scout Hill. But even if you’ve had your fill, I implore you, find room for just one more: Eric Celeste’s “Whose Lake is it Anyway?” in the June issue of D Magazine. 

This is an important column to read because residents of Old Lake Highlands and other White Rock Lake-adjacent neighborhoods need to see what other Dallasites see, from the outside looking in. Whereas Lyle Burgin and Richard Knopf just wanted to build a restaurant atop what they thought was an underused portion of White Rock Lake Park, residents saw it as an abominable incursion on public space that was a slippery slope toward turning the “Crown Jewel of Dallas” into an amusement park.

Here’s Celeste’s perspective on the issue as a downtown Dallas dweller:

” … I believe many Dallasites would have welcomed the restaurant. And my initial thought was that these torch-bearing homeowners don’t speak for me and aren’t interested in hearing answers to their questions, so why do they get to decide? They don’t own the lake.

Sure, their house values are directly tied to what happens in and around the lake. They have a greater stake in its day-to-day activity than I do. But they don’t have exclusive rights to it, no more than I have exclusive rights to Klyde Warren Park just because I live within walking distance. So, as a longtime Dallasite who loves the lake (objectively, it’s a crap lake, but it’s our crap lake), I was appalled by the vitriol and closed-mindedness on display.”

[Emphasis added.]

Ah hah! That’s the kicker right there. As a lake dweller, many these people purchased their homes because of the added value a lake-area address affords them. And if you’re skeptical whether White Rock Lake can make or break a sale, consider how many homes listed in neighborhoods such as Lake Park Estates, Eastwood, Old Lake Highlands, Emerald Isle, Forest Hills and Little Forest Hills include “close to White Rock Lake!” in the summary.

So yes, they do have a greater stake, and yes, it’s important to protect the lake and maintain it, but East Dallas needs to remember that, while we love the lake and want it to be the kind of place our children’s children will enjoy, we don’t own it. Greg Brown was quoted by just about every media outlet saying “Not everything has to be monetized.” True. And when I asked him if he was concerned about development at the lake affecting the value of his Old Lake Highlands home, this is what he had to say:

This is not about my property values.  I would not even know where to begin to understand how it would affect that.  This really confused the developers who thought our issue would be money and PV’s.    This is not about money.  It is about protection and enjoyment of a public park and keeping it protected so that all citizens of Dallas can enjoy it in the future.  It is about placing an additional burden on a lake that is already overcrowded on a nice day with walkers, runners, cyclists, picnickers, fishers, and doggists.   I count myself within three of those avocations.

This is not NIMBY.  This about all of the citizens of Dallas being able to use the Lake.   However, our neighborhood is close to the lake and therefore we have an obligation to look after it.  I imagine the property owners around Lake Fork and other lakes do the same thing.  I don’t go to Lake Fork that often but I sure hope that there is an association that advocates for its care and sustainable use.  Don’t you?

Unlike our concerns, the concerns of the developers are about one thing: the easiest way to make money.  And I admire them for their audacity on this one.  1) Build a restaurant on the condition that you get the overwhelming proceeds, but throw out a little to some local groups to display your generosity  2) Let the city own and operate it (Do we want our city in the restaurant business now?)  3) Let the money roll in with no risk or real work on the part of the developers.  4) If the restaurant goes under, the developers suffer nothing, the city is saddled with a defunct property, and the citizens of Dallas pay for it.  The result is three acres of green space are taken away from the citizens of Dallas, and the most beautiful view of the lake and downtown now has to be paid for to be enjoyed along with some greasy nachos and overpriced margarita

Now you get why there were jeers and sneers?  This is the Old, Old Dallas way of doing things.  The presenters had no idea of the dynamics of our neighborhood or the passion we have for the lake.  It is obvious that they have been so engaged in group think that they were thrown for a loop when people actually questioned their ideas and motives.  The meeting was about as civil as one could expect when presented with such a vague yet ludicrous proposal.  Anyone who expects a black and white 50’s movie civil discourse is living in a dream world.  This is how you convince your elected officials that you mean business. Do you think Sheffie’s mind would have registered anything else?  Do you think the developers would have been able to spin it to a “rousing support by the community” had the mention of passionate incivility not been there?  People are getting fed up with the fait accompli of rich old white men.   Social networking makes it easier to rally and assemble resistance (just ask the entire Middle East).  I will no longer settle for the status quo of under the table dealings.  I will hold our elected representatives accountable.  Now is not a good time to try to get an under the table deal done in this neighborhood.

Back to your original question.  I do not care about my property values related to the proposed restaurant.  PV’s are going up in OLH because the neighborhood is changing, the old wave is leaving and the new wave is coming in.  And they are more connected and more passionate about their neighborhoods than ever before.  

What do you think?

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Joanna England

If Executive Editor Joanna England could house hunt forever, she absolutely would. Instead she covers the North Texas housing market and the economy for While she started out with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, Joanna's work has appeared in The Dallas Morning News as well as several local media outlets. When she's not knitting or hooping, or enjoying White Rock Lake, she's behind the lens of her camera. She lives in East Dallas with her husband, son, and their furry and feathered menagerie.

Reader Interactions


  1. Mike Schmitt says

    CRAP LAKE???? I don’t know where that statement came from but that is absolutely crazy. Our lake is the most beautiful asset that Dallas has to offer. There are many groups of people who live close to the lake who spend hours picking up trash that the people who live in different parts of the city leave for others to pick up after them so it will not become a crap lake.

  2. Brenda Marks says

    I loved his quote that “the is the Old Old Dallas way of doing things.” That is fast changing across the city (about time!) and I think it will be all for the better.

  3. Julie Sherrod says

    Those of us closest to the lake care about Preserving White Rock for everyone in Dallas. Anyone who doesn’t understand that this park is valuable to us because it’s not developed may want to read about parks and open space and what they mean to a city regarding economic development (attracting new businesses) and creating a strong and sustainable economy. Green space is lacking in our town. Great quality of life brings good things to a city. Sustainability is what we need to create a resilient community and economy. Green spaces are central to a healthy community.

    • ccryder says

      Actually, because of the long White Rock corridor, Great Trinity Forest, Klyde Warren Park, The Arboretum, Old City Park and on and on, – your comment sounds great but is false. Dallas has been listed for the past 3-5 years and so written about in the DMN as one of the cities within the US that has the HIGHEST amount of park area per resident.
      Always check your history before making up “facts.”
      And, it was our very own, very involved, very concerned Parks Department that came up with the idea of the one (only) restaurant because so many had asked the Department for something like this kind of facility. I’m quoting a long time, but retired, Parks employee.

      • Jill says

        So not true, ccryder. You need to look up the city park facts report out out every year by the trust for public land. Dallas does NOT have one of the highest amounts of park areas per resident. Of the 100 largest US cities, we are very much in the middle (but we should be at the top).

  4. Greg Brown says

    My 15 seconds of fame came and went long ago. There are plenty of people that have been advocating for the lake for far longer, and with for more skill and ability, than I. They are the ones to talk with about the development and sustainability of the lake.

    I also agree that everyone should read Eric Celeste’s article, for it is the most insulting and condescending piece I have read in quite some time. Like a 5 year old who can’t have the shiny thing on the shelf, the article goes into full tantrum mode by essentially proclaiming “we don’t want a restaurant on your stupid crap lake anyway.” Once again, a great reminder that D Magazine is a publication of, by and for the business interests of Dallas. Period.

    One only has to start with the 1998 Trinity River bond program (Sailboats on the river anyone? No? Then how about 16 lane toll road to nowhere?), the total lack of citizen input (and, apparently, the FAA) in the Executive Airport expansion, to attempting to drop a big box store into City Place, to see that the citizens of Dallas are left out of development decisions that directly affect them. And when citizens do get involved, the NIMBY stamp comes out in this and every other publication. Such a shame.

    • Fredrick the Great(est) says

      D Magazine’s editorials are driven in part by their business model. During the Candy years, they derived a chunk of change from residential real estate in the form of ads, the best neighborhoods issue, Candy’s blog and realtor events.

      The high end realtors fled D when Candy departed, the Great Recession hit and the magazine published the Ellen Mowery-Sheets cover story. Now they are more likely to affiliate with DMN’s slick FD magazine.

      Commercial real estate is now a bigger source of income for the magazine than the Candy years. Eric may be branded as a D employee, but he’s a hired gun and you can expect more pro commercial real estate deals.

      Candy, stop me if I’m wrong. And I apologize. I know you are tight with the former Mrs. Allison.

    • ccryder says

      Agree w/ many of your comments.

      However: most of us that post here live within 10 miles of Dallas. White Rock was planned to be, and is, 10 mlles from the center of Downtown. Here in Preston Hollow, there is big-time NIMBY screaming about 2 different high-rises proposed for the Preston Center area. Dallas citizens who have a ‘home’ with a ‘yard’ and grass seem to think that their deed rights include the ability to live within the vibrance of a CITY with all of it’s amenities, and yet retain every benefit of bucolic residency. That was so in 1950 — but, today it simply is not. You need to choose: live with the growth of a live city (v. a dead one like Detroit) or move out to Pilot Point or further. Demanding both is more ‘old-time’ thinking than the other way round.

      And — I still think much of the concern is NIMBY, even if denied.

      • Jill says

        Ccryder, it is not a NIMBY issue. It’s a “do not develop park land” issue. How much park land do you think dallas has, especially when compared to other large cities? (Hint….not much. Parks and wildlife has an analysis on this).

      • Greg Brown says

        That’s great that you can read post after post talking about how the lake is for all the citizens of Dallas and yet still read between the lines that it is all about NIMBY. I believe you are confusing real questions and concerns about mindless development with mindless opposition to development. Two very different things. I have no reservations about development around the lake, just not IN the park boundaries, as there is very little real, useable park land surrounding the lake to begin with. If someone wants to present a proposal that does not involve development within the park boundaries and does not put all of the liability on the city and its taxpayers then I will be all ears. This proposal was just that: 1) all reward and no risk for the developers, 2) liability for restaurant failure lies with the city and taxpayers, 3) completely contradictory to the White Rock Lake Management Plan and 4) no master plan on how this development would fit in with any other plans for the lake. This was a bad plan to begin with and an absolutely awful, condescending presentation by the developers.

  5. Krista de la Harpe says

    We must keep up the fight to protect our beautiful White Rock Lake Park.
    Donna Harris of Lakewood sums it up perfectly:

    ” It’s hard for people, who support development on the lake to imagine, but many people in Dallas don’t have luxuries or are able to take vacations. For a lot of family’s, especially single parents, spending time flying kites and having picnics with their children by the waters edge at White Rock Lake, is their vacation.”

    Mayor Rawlins and Dallas Officials should Protect White Rock Lake Park!

  6. Jill says

    I live in lake highlands and am a few miles from the lake. I was put off by Eric Celeste’s comment that it is a crap lake. He must have been paid off by Kopf and Burgin to write that article (or by someone at D Magazine….a publication that I no longer trust and will no longer buy).

    I encourage anyone and everyone to send an email to not only Celeste, but the editor(s) of D Magazine and let them know how ridiculously narrow minded Celeste’s comments were…..hell, that entire article was stupid!

    And I would encourage Kopf and Burgin to back away from pursuing any development at white rock lake. I don’t think they have stopped their campaign to build at the lake. But they must not understand how large the grassroots movement has become…..I.e. Those who want to save the lake from any development.

  7. Joan Thompson says

    Yes, of course, the lake is one thing that distinguishes these neighborhoods from others, but property values are not the real issue here. The REAL issue is that everyone in Dallas should be able to use all of the lake and its amenities, but there are many who bring picnic lunches and families in from other areas in Dallas to enjoy lovely summer evenings or weekend picnics that could never afford the restaurant or snack shop as proposed by the developers. If people want a truly beautiful of a sunset over the lake, they should bring a picnic basket, a blanket or folding chairs and enjoy the tranquility, not the smell of exhaust and old food or trash cans, and the sounds of nature rather than traffic noise ad sounds of commerce. As always, the real question is cui bono? In this case, restaurant benefits the developers, no restaurant benefits everyone else.

  8. Steven says

    Not to defend the author here, but I think many of you are are getting unnecessarily hung up on the “crap” lake comment. It is the intangibles of the lake that makes it so unique and an area worth preserving: the trees, park, trails, arboretum, new dog park, etc, etc…

    The lake, standing alone, is essentially a drainage ditch for much of NE Dallas. Have you seen the lake, up-close, right after a heavy rainfall? How about the reason swimming is not allowed?

    This is nobody’s fault – just a consequence of being located in a heavily populated area.

    • ccryder says

      And – the Lake is 50 percent of it’s original and planned size. I suppose if the now tried to take it back to it’s original shape and size – the locals would have a cow over that as well….. you can’t please them no matter. They enjoy being up in arms….

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