In This River: A Love Letter to the Wild Trinity

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Under the Houston St Viaduct. Taken by Amanda Popken
Kayaking Under the Houston St Viaduct, 2013. (Photo: Amanda Popken)

This Wednesday you’re invited to join a discussion about the Trinity.
A river that has defined our city for over a century.
Yet its place in our lives still remains little more than afterthought.

Millions of taxpayer dollars funded a very extensive plan:
To build, beautify, and manage this park — has anyone actually read it?
Years have passed applying for approvals, securing bonds, political wars, a design contest, expert opinions and decades later we have:
A few more trails, fewer trees, stunning bridges, and a death-defying rapid.

Cleaning out small trees and underbrush, Feb 2015. Taken by Amanda Popken
Clearing out small trees and underbrush under the Continental Bridge along the Trinity River, Feb 2015. (Photo: Amanda Popken)

Yet these community leaders and experts see how we can do more, now.
To protect and enjoy this wildscape.

Whether you’ll need a road through to enjoy it, is up for evaluation.
If you’re lucky now, you’ll catch a glimpse — driving over it on occasion.

Glimpse of the River through Commerce St Bridge. Taken by Amanda Popken
Glimpse of the River through Commerce St Bridge while in traffic. (Photo: Amanda Popken)

Regardless of plans or funding, it’s there. An ecosystem around us.
Prairies, forests, rivers and streams, birds and critters are countless.

2013 Sept - Heron
White Heron takes flight on the Trinity River (Photo: Amanda Popken)

In our own backyard, behind weeds and trees,
A wilderness thrives. A blue heron flies. A river runs through it all.

It’ll flood in the spring and again in the fall. Wildflowers bloom for an instant.
Birds and butterflies depend on the Trinity for their migration.

Wildflowers in the Trinity Floodway. Taken by Amanda Popken
Wildflowers in the Trinity Floodway. (Photo: Amanda Popken)

Its invaluable service to all creatures, but to us seems of trifling importance.
It flooded our city, and since then it’s been walled-off, secluded, forgotten.

Full Trinity River, May 2015. Taken by Amanda Popken
Water sat high between the Trinity River levees, May 2015. (Photo: Amanda Popken)

But to be down in it, among the wild, within the levee wall,
You’ll feel a sense of calm and wonder, breaking from the city clammer,
A gentle breeze, floating leaves, majestic trees, away from it all.

Canoeing the Trinity River with Dad, Fathers Day 2016. Taken by Amanda Popken
Canoeing the Trinity River with Dad, Fathers Day 2016. (Photo: Amanda Popken)

Then you see the skyline. You’re somehow amidst the city.

Skyine - sylvan
Sunrise over downtown from the Sylvan Bridge. (Photo: Amanda Popken)

Like a sanctuary, a private retreat. Where’s the secret entrance, you ask?

One ‘overlook’ parks a few. One boat ramp that you access through — a seemingly private alley.
One lovely bridge where people play, after dinner a few steps away.

One new park with boat ramp and all, with sweeping views of the skyline.
One gravel parking lot off side a bridge, if you dare to brave the flood.

One dirt path, off the road to the side — park by the fisherman, lock, take, hide.
A trail at the Audubon. A trail by Bonton. A trail through Joppa Preserve.

Map of Trails and Sites, from
Map of Trails and Sites, from

We go down every Christmas Day, just my dog and I.
Some days I end work early, when it’s too gorgeous to be inside.
We read together on a blanket, it’s our favorite place to go.

We kayak with friends on sunny days, explore the trails, and play in the snow,


Trinity Arial Adventure Park. Taken by Amanda Popken
Trinity Aerial Adventure Park. (Photo: Amanda Popken)

Zipline in trees, look for coyotes and bees, and scout for beaver lodges.

A beaver lodge! Taken by Amanda Popken
The enormous beaver lodge we found last year during a flood — still there in Nov. of 2016!  (Photo: Amanda Popken)

We bike, fly kites, go on day-long hikes, and add to the Love Locks bridge.
Do we NEED an ampitheater with a floating stage?

Trinity Floodway Fall 2016. Taken by Amanda Popken
Trinity Floodway Fall 2016. (Photo: Amanda Popken)

We may not need lakes or magicians or roads, but one thing this river does need:
More stewards willing to keep it pristine. Protect the wild and ancient spring,
Prevent more sand pits where trees once stood, maintain trails for the public good,

Visit, hike, explore, and enjoy.
We all need some wild in our lives
A public treasure, not a decoy.
In this river, there it lies.

The Houston St Viaduct at sunset, May 2013. Taken by Amanda Popken
The Houston St Viaduct at sunset, May 2013. (Photo: Amanda Popken)

Envisioning the Trinity: Theme Park or Natural Wonder?

WHEN: Wednesday, March 8, 5:30 – 8 p.m.
WHERE: 2711 N Haskell Ave Dallas, TX 75204
Moderated by Peter Simek, D Magazine

How Did We Get Here?
Don Raines, Michael Bastien, and Ignacio Bunster-Ossa, three designers and consultants who worked on the Balanced Vision Plan, will discuss the history and original intent of the only federally approved plan for the Trinity River.

How to “Wild” the Trinity?
Landscape Architect and Urban Planner Kevin Sloan, Dallas Park Board Member and Master Naturalist Rebecca Howe Rader, Audubon Texas’ Urban Conservation Program Manager Dr. Tania Homayoun, and horticulturist Dr. Robert E. Moon will talk about the Trinity River watershed and how a deeper appreciation of its subtle and delicate natural ecology is the key to the realizing the best future for the river.

RSVP on eventbrite

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Amanda Popken

Amanda is a community strategist & economic development specialist focused on placemaking and urban design promoting, inspiring, teaching & engaging communities to grow their own social capital. She is President of Congress for the New Urbanism North Texas and can be found at

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