What’s Dallas Parks & Rec doing at White Rock Lake? Is it any wonder DAVE HARTWIG is still able to host races at White Rock Lake?
Most people aren’t aware of the push back he’s gotten from the City of Dallas and its affiliates since taking over Thruston Racing. Despite a slow start, Hartwig appears to have turned the corner and is getting a reputable sized crowd at his events. A lot of the athletes that show up to race are aware of the problems and side with him. They are fiercely loyal and have become White Rock Racing’s biggest fans.
Though everyone close to James Thruston knew of his problems with the city trying to reign in his races, they also knew Thruston was being “grandfathered in” in many cases. He began putting on races at Big Thicket Cabin in September of 1976 with a race budget of $30. This was before the explosion of races DFW has witnessed in the past 10 years. From the mid-1980’s to 2010, he directed 60-80 races per year, despite those who tried to close down or evict him from White Rock Lake (the site of many of his races). That’s a lot of races, despite often being out-advertised or out-maneuvered (by Dallas Parks & Rec), year in and year out, in favor of the glitzy, flash-and-dash, one-time-only events that pollute the Dallas racing calendar. It was Thruston who lead the charge to create, and show, there was a market for races such as his.
Along the way, he was also a pioneer with timing systems, race management, and even race categories. James is the one who created the Clydesdale and Athena race categories that are now used universally across the country in all races, from triathlons, to swim meets, bike races, and ultra-runs, etc. He was the recipient of the prestigious 2003 Victory Award of Excellence (past recipients include Dr. Ken Cooper, Dr. George Shehan, Dr. Robert Vaughan, Francie Larrieu-Smith, Johnny Kelly, Fred Lebow, Kenny Moore, Tom Landry, Joan Benoit-Sammuelson, Frank Shorter, Dave Scott, Runner’s World Magazine, Steve Scott, and Bill Rodgers.)
When James announced his retirement, David Hartwig was already working closely with Thruston and Thruston Racing. It was natural that Hartwig should take over in May 2010, though he had some big shoes to fill.
With Thruston and the grandfather clause out of the way, city entities went to work almost immediately to try and do the same thing with Hartwig and White Rock Racing that they weren’t able to do to Thruston Racing: close down the races at White Rock Lake.
The reasoning for such action has been mostly speculative, though some city officials from time to time would spout company policy at various meetings and in statements to The Dallas Morning News.
But there’s almost always a tie to those living in the White Rock Lake area. It should be noted that the zip code 75214 on the west side of the lake is one of the wealthiest in the country according to city, state, and government records.
Zip code 75214 has a population of 32,662 (most between 25 and 37 years of age), unemployment of only 4.4%, and in 2011, houses sold for a median price of $328,738. It has been brought up numerous times that this zip code donates to the White Rock Lake Branch of DP&R, located at the top of Flag Pole Hill, immediately north of White Rock Lake. This would account for the DP&R doing the bidding for lake side residents. It is no secret these people have proposed shutting down White Rock Lake entirely to have lake front property that the city would maintain.
Similar to Israel’s east and west banks, on the east side of White Rock Lake is zip code 75218, with a population of 22,708. Their estimated median house value in 2011 was a much lower $219,900 (city-data.com/zipmaps/Dallas-Texas.html#75214). Most residents are between 27 and 50 years of age. The border between the two extends from the middle of Mockingbird Lane Bridge at the north, to the bottom of the spillway bridge to the south. The east side of the lake is inhabited by mostly recreationists who frequently use the lake for running, walking, or cycling. They understood the people and activities that take place there when they moved in.
Councilman Sheffie Kadane represents these two zip codes and is the one who brokered the peace between the west and what the west side considers “interlopers,” the east side residents of White Rock Lake. He is often called upon to settle disputes the way a mafia “Don” would.
But is Hartwig being singled out? And if so, why? What about the other race producers who are not being harassed? A question does arise when one realizes the Dallas Running Club (DRC), Mellew Productions, Run On, and Luke’s Locker don’t appear to have the same problems getting events OK’d as Hartwig. Consider for a moment how quickly the much ballyhooed Dallas United Crew row team got their boat house construction signed off without much conversation from the city at all. (Even though the public raised a stink, it was generally overlooked and given a rubber stamp by DP&R.)
The cash flow from the west side to DP&R is the same as money to prospective elected officials, who are expected in return to do the donors bidding. This is customary politics in America. It’s called “lobbying.”
The players from DP&R include, but are not limited to, Paul Dyer, former director for 20 years (31 years with the city), Jill Beam, DPD Sr. Cpl. Jimmy Bailey (works as part of the Special Events office), Special Events Manager Lori Chance, Vicky Alexander, and Willis Winters who took over for Dyer in January 2013.
It seems there is nothing straight about these people or the position they represent. Every one of them have skeletons in their closets. So many they could fill a grave yard among their collective history. There’s a lot of twisted rules, temporary standards, unjustified harassment, conflicts of interest, talking out of both sides of their mouths, back scratching, back stabbing, and in cases involving Bailey, falsifying reports to get paid more for races while going home to nap.
If you have dealings with these people, understand, they hold the power. All the power, including enough to shut down your event permanently without getting your money back. Though the city’s web site says they are located within City Hall (1500 Marilla Street, Room 6F North), the real office is hidden in the bowels of Fair Park next to the Cotton Bowl stadium. One would pass by it and never know people of power and influence work inside. The White Rock Lake DP&R office is an interesting place too, hidden out in the open at the very pinnacle of Flag Pole Hill. Hundreds pass by it daily never knowing what the four-room building is used for. A dog training class takes place next to it on Tuesday evenings in the summer. A third building sits at the bottom of Flag Pole Hill on the corner of Northwest Highway and Goforth, where the New Year’s Day Five Miler begins.
There is no recourse by the collective public or the individual citizen once DP&R has made its decisions. There is no other office or supervisor to talk to. And since these are employees and not elected officials, the users and stake holders of White Rock Lake are stuck with their decisions until one leaves office, usually feet first.
Some of the other groups that have felt the wrath of the DP&R include The Ride Of Silence, Runner’s World Magazine, and Foot Locker, to name just a few. All of these groups were open to the public, who didn’t have to pay to participate. This particularly seemed to rankle DP&R for some reason. Maybe because there was nothing to collect.
But to be fair to Paul Dyer, The Dallas Morning News reports, “The parks director must answer to the 15-member Park Board and the City Council while keeping up good relations with the city manager.” The paper also said he held the position so long because he was, “smart and adept at handling people. But also because he is honest.” The News backed up and justified Dyer saying, “He has taken knocks, as any high-ranking city official will. That comes with the territory.” The article points out, “Dyer’s tenure wasn’t without controversy, whether it was his handling of a trail safety campaign that involved friends of Mayor Mike Rawlings or recent concerns over a plan to build a parking garage for the Arboretum.” Hmmm.
Before stepping down, D Magazine asked for Dyer’s resignation after he released a statement through The Arboretum, saying, “More and more people are using and visiting White Rock Lake and currently, there is inadequate parking. People visiting the lake and attending the many runs and ball games often turn to dangerous and illegal parking. Further, grass that’s left un-mowed is a fire hazard and threatens homes in the area.”
In response the magazine wrote, “People come to the lake because it’s pretty, not because the parking is plentiful. By his logic, we should cut down all the trees. They, too, are a fire hazard. I am amazed that this man has the job he does.” One citizen responded to Dyer with, “While we’re at it, let’s build a toll road across the lake. I’m sure there’s a need for traffic relief on Buckner Boulevard. People can’t get to and from the lake fast enough.”
Events and Reservations Manager Jill Beam was originally hired with the city in 1972 as an aerobics instructor. She doesn’t run or cycle. With an iron fist and a convenient habit of forgetting what she said to who, she moved up the DP&R ladder quickly becoming the defacto leader of DP&R whenever Dyer wasn’t looking. She had aspirations of joining city politics on the strength of her leadership and “customer service” at White Rock Lake, but has since backed away from that prospect.
Officer Jim Bailey has an interesting position through anyone’s eyes. Bailey is in the trenches working directly face-to-face with the event directors. At Hartwig’s events, Bailey had required officers at turn around points of the course, in the middle of the trail, a distance from the road, and where there was no traffic. He holds the keys of whether an event will open or not. For example, he determines how many officers a race director should have any given event, despite the above guidelines. He’s the manly sheriff of the little town known as White Rock Lake.
This past summer Officer Bailey arrested one of Hartwig’s volunteers because Bailey didn’t believe the man in question was a volunteer who was on his way to drop off water jugs for runners. Bailey also approached Hartwig demanding more money and more officers for the proposed race route. Hartwig said no, and won a change allowing race directors to choose which officers would work a race.
Bailey also ticketed one of his volunteers for parking after the race was given special dispensation. It’s the same other events get. Dave took the ticket from the volunteer and paid it, himself. While Bailey is not a novice, a veteran police office between 50-55 yrs. of age, it was flagrant abuse of his authority.
Hartwig feels DP&R is over the top. They don’t live up to their own agreements, twisting the facts and rules after the fact. He’s called their deadlines and rules a “moving target.” While they overlook their own mistakes, they pin Hartwig to the wall on details.
Because DP&R’s actions against Hartwig are seen as unjustified by the rest of the community, Lewis George of Mellew Productions moved a few of his races, while Run On moved all of their races off White Rock Lake or out of town completely. It appeared the local bully sheriff won. But, DP&R loses. It loses income.
Lori Chance has been in her position for many years. She is the one who made the decision that races of 500-1000 entrants were not allowed to use the Dallas roads anymore because of the glut of races in DFW (researched and published in The Phast Times News), of which 90% are held in Dallas, and all but two or three at White Rock lake. Chance was supposed to start a task force to look into this further, but never has.
Hartwig has called Chance’s decision a knee-jerk reaction to overcrowding at the lake. But this solution would put virtually every race on the trails at White Rock Lake causing greater confusion, overcrowding, back-ups, and accidents.
Deep down, Hartwig and many others, already knew this was a ruling that would pass in a matter of time once DP&R saw the light. However, it still comes up in meetings as some sort of collateral or “Or else” clout.
Another decision was to no longer have a sound system at The Bath House for events. A few, one in particular who once attempted to close down White Rock Lake so he would have lake front property, complained about the noise at 8 am on Saturdays. Reaching for a solution, Hartwig suggested the city build a sound proof retaining wall that would ensure the peacefulness of the residents seven days a week. But, it would also eliminate their view of the lake.
The neighborhood has completely changed over since races started being hosted at the lake. Every resident learns before they move in about the vast use of White Rock Lake and its surrounding area. Like moving next to an airport, this isn’t a surprise to the people who live there. In most cases, most of the people that live near the lake, especially on the east side, take part in events, enjoy the close proximity to the lake, and higher property values.
Another time, DP&R required all the race directors to make custom signs for each and every event they hosted. This would have incurred additional costs for everyone.
And let’s not get started on the special treatment and dispensation the Dallas Arboretum and Belo Corporation sponsored events get. This has been well documented in publications other than those by Belo Corp (WFAA Ch. 8, TXCN cable news network, The Dallas Morning News, and formerly KRLD radio).
One would think all the rules for events at White Rock Lake would have already been established given Thruton’s first race was held at the lake 37 years ago in 1976. However, many times DP&R has created competing rules. By trying to fix one problem they will make a new rule that conflicts with an older rule. Having seen the workings of DP&R, Hartwig agrees saying changes are not thought out, and in many cases overlap. “The rules are short sighted and non-inclusive.” For those in the front lines, who have expertise and understanding of what takes place at races, the rules don’t make sense many times.
When applying for an event, the application (dallasparks.org) doesn’t appear unusual. In plain English, the fees are given under Section 1. “Fewer than 500 participants, $10. 501-2,500 participants, $25. 2,501-10,000 participants, $50. 10,001-20,000 participants, $100. Over 20,000 participants, $200. Additional special event fees, lease fees, and deposits may apply. Application must be filed not less than 30 days before the event” (Italics added). All the deadlines are important to keep in mind because, though the race directors are expected to meet them, DP&R rarely does.
Event description, schedule, location, layout, sponsor information, public notice, insurance, security/crowd/traffic control, and parking plans are requested, as well as ticket price or race registration. Additional permits and fees are also listed, such as for alcohol, curfew waiver, fireworks, beverages, merchandise sales, hooded parking meters, propane gas, police officers, “erection of a tent or tents 400 square feet or larger”, fencing, port-a-lets, animals, electricity, stages, installation of stages, water hydrants, banners, bleachers, special parking, street closures, blocking or restriction of public property, band shell, trailers, portable buildings, grand stand, traffic cones, and the placement of temporary no-parking, directional, over-sized or identification signage or banners,“on public property or on private property.”
DP&R has every angle figured in. It should be pointed out the web site says the Dallas Convention Center and Fair Park are exempt. However, there is another page (www.dallasspecialevents.com/contact/) prospective race directors will also need to read.
It explains the permit in more detail. It must be submitted no less than 45 business days before the event, along with a route map (Does this change if the runners are lead off course?); and only events over 75 people need a permit. (This number was arbitrarily lowered after Runner’s World held a community running program at Norbuck Park the summer of 2011, to help the disadvantaged. Their numbers were thought by DP&R to be 100 at the time when, in fact, they were lower.)
The last thing this page says is, “According to Dallas City Code, the citywide departments are required to have no less than 10 business days to submit their approval/denial of the permit request.” (Italics added.) Hartwig knows this to be true because he’s had to wait until the day of the event to get approval despite having submitted his request up to a year in advance.
This wreaks havoc with both the race director and those planning to participate, with both scrambling around at the last second. Inevitably, both lose. For the athlete, there are nerves and frustration in wanting to race. They’ve been training months, and in some cases years, to compete. Many times, the athlete misses the race and blames the innocent race director.
For the race director this is lost income for an already meager living. More, it’s the eroding of a reputation the race director has taken years to build up. As any public relations person knows, bad news travels quicker than good news. The result is these messes by DP&R will affect the race director’s next event’s participation while DP&R charge the same fees without penalty.
DP&R have changed their minds the week before, the day before, and even the morning of a race, changing locations, start times, use of equipment, or a technicality, giving Hartwig only hours to adapt before the athletes are expecting to start. This is usually groundless, but at times point to a scheduling conflict they made after Hartwig’s event was already on the calendar.
In their defense, DP&R lists 321 city parks on their web site (dallasparks.org; some places say 374, and other places say 450 “neighborhood, community and regional parks,” over 18,600 acres.) throughout Dallas. Many of the parks are smaller than a zero acre house lot that do not involve a lot of supervision for runner and cyclist gatherings, otherwise known as races. So either DP&R are inept and not aware of what their office is doing in the nether regions of White Rock Lake (hard to believe, but possible), or they are concentrating solely on Hartwig and other event managers (race directors) at the detriment of other insignificant DP&R and city entities.
But, there are only seven parks listed at dallasspecialevents.com/venue-maps/: City Hall, Fair Park, downtown Dallas, Victory Park, Arts District, the West End, all within one square mile of each other, and of course, White Rock Lake. It’s interesting that Bachman Lake, William Blair Jr. Park, Trinity River Park, Joppa Reserve, or several of the White Rock Creek locations are not listed. It should be noted that of all the property DP&R lists as having to keep up, nowhere does it mention the trails at White Rock Lake or anything running or cycling related. This is notable because runners and cyclists combined make up the number one users of White Rock Lake.
This is the list as it appears:
258 tennis courts, 183 playgrounds, 128 soccer fields, 321 multipurpose fields, 87 softball diamonds, 115 picnic pavilions, 26 pools, 15 sandlots, 47 recreation centers, 12 football fields, 30 baseball diamonds, 6 “18-hole” golf courses, 5 tennis centers, and 7 “spray” grounds.
Of all these parks, it is calculated 18,361 kids use the park system, presumably, per year. However, there was no listing for the number of runners or cyclists using White Rock Lake for a specific event or in general, for a day, week, month, or for any year, for any park, or any area in Dallas County.
Hartwig has a full calendar of events stretching into early next year. His fall build-up series to the Dallas Marathon is just starting. There’s the Lost Dog 20K, the Water Works 25K, and the Big D 30K. After that there are the winter classics; The Jog’r Egg Nog’r, New Year’s Day 5 Miler, and The Snowman Shuffle 10K. During the summer, he hosts the Bachman Lake weekly 5K series on Wednesday evenings. No doubt DP&R may right now be making plans to sabotage each, or all, of these races.
David Hartwig is a very sincere guy, with an athletic background in swimming, cycling, marathons, and triathlons (he did the Ironman Triathlon in 1998). While in high school he was coached by Scott Eder, alongside another triathlete that would become a household name, Lance Armstrong. From his athletic training he has learned to never give up. Hartwig is nothing if not tenacious. It has suited him well dealing with DP&R.
Under Eder’s tutelage, Hartwig helped Eder bring triathlons to north Texas when the sport was still developing. By 1996, Hartwig was putting on north Texas’ first U.S. Open triathlon. It was also one of the first to offer cash awards. About the same time, he began a race timing business that became famous in the state. He recorded five national and two world records with his equipment at races he was invited to time. That puts him in very rare company. He has also worked closely with the Superdrome (Director of Event Technology), and timing event production for the DRC, Run On, and the Dallas Turkey Trot, among other races.
He knows what he’s doing. Hartwig’s has received the blessing and support of Larry “Spareribs” LaMothe, a running critic with The Dallas Morning News. LaMothe has written about Hartwig as one of the premier race directors in the area.
Hartwig smiles easily in conversation and is quick to ask people about themselves first. He has worked with, and given freely to, every lake user organization, usually anonymously. He is sincere in building good relationships with everyone. He’d prefer conversation any day over conflict. DP&R seems to sense this and, at times, take advantage of this quality about him.
He can be very technically oriented working with his many computers and timing system. It should be noted Hartwig has spent many all-nighters preparing for races to make sure it goes off as planned. On race day, he’s all business, not wanting to disappoint those who hire him or the runners, by providing fast and accurate race results.
When dealing with DP&R, and its many branches, Hartwig is especially focused on the details. He has to be. The city will, and has, returned event requests because of misspellings, a box not checked, or too many boxes checked, too little information, and too much information. They have changed race venues on him so much it has become almost routine, a joke within the running community.
Routinely he chats in person with those who hold the power over his races, the people that must OK his race requests, learning the latest updates and changes. (These updates are usually not posted. The requesting race director usually finds out the changes too late, or by trial and error; a very long and tedious process that DP&R seems to relish.)
Still, after checking and double checking his forms and with other people, his requests are denied or at the very least, held up, delayed.
Anyone who has lived through one Dallas summer knows that by 9 am in June, July, or August, one can fry eggs on the concrete. To have athletes competing that late in the day could be considered “cruel and unusual punishment,” and possibly end in tragedy. But, Hartwig was singled out and almost forced to close down after the city said he started his races too early. He was told lakeside residents weren’t getting their rest when his 7 am races went off. Remember, residents knew before they moved in, races and other events take place most weekends. So the races were backed up to 8 am. Then it was said that his sound system was too loud at 8 am. Hartwig threatened to have the Lake Highlands marching band come play the opening Star Bangle Banner. The Barker brothers on the east side of the lake supported Hartwig along with other eastside residents.
Not well thought out, other residents who complain and would like to see all events leave White Rock Lake, don’t supply an alternate site for the active population. Though many older cities have adapted to, and even adopted pedestrians, runners, and cyclist either for events or commerce, Dallas hasn’t. There are few places for this population to go to close off streets. White Rock Lake is probably and possibly the best site within the city limits.
Hartwig experienced a drop in entrants when he first took over Thruston Racing, as he found himself directing the oldest races in Dallas with one hand, and battling the city with the other hand. It was a tough time. But he’s more than proven he and his events are worthy of respect and participation.
Each year the Ride Of Silence is held on the third Wednesday in May throughout the world, including White Rock Lake where it originated. And each year a DP&R representative comes out to wander around seeming very innocent of the surroundings, asking questions. In years past, it was Jill Beam. Other years, Officer Jim Bailey has been on the premises under the guise of “making sure everything’s alright” or “just checking it out.”
At past Ride Of Silence events, Hartwig was shaken down to pay for cyclists going “less than 12 MPH” because of “their impact on the roads.” Problem was, Hartwig honestly and correctly explained, he didn’t know who or how many cyclists were going to ride because there was, and still is, no registration. It is open to the public. Furthermore, the event didn’t charge participants. The ride is free to the riders. Basically, DP&R was trying to draw blood from a rock, White Rock.
The Money Funnel
A financial supporter of DP&R is Dallas Parks Foundation. Dallas Parks Foundation was created in the winter/spring of 2002. It is an umbrella organization that funnels money to DP&R. It is located near For The Love of The Lake, 381 Casa Linda Plaza. As their web site, dallasparksfoundation.org says, it is, “An independent private nonprofit corporation created to address the unfulfilled needs of Dallas parks, dedicated to preserving, protecting, promoting, and enhancing Dallas parks,” especially White Rock Lake since it is the Central Park of Dallas. According to their web site, dallasparksfoundation.org/?page_id=33, they act as a funnel with money coming in from eight entities that goes into a pot for DP&R. All of the entities are funded by “corporations and individuals.”
The programs are: Dallas Parks and Recreation Aquatics Program (swimming pools), Dallas Urban Forestry (caring for “Dallas’ urban forest”), Historic Events (A potpourri of buildings, facilities, parks, and events like the 100 day celebration of the White Rock Lake Centennial Celebration in 2011), Kiest Athletic Complex (soccer, softball, and tennis facility), Lake Highlands North Park Project (hosted by The Lake Highlands Women’s Jr. League), Mayor’s Youth Fitness Initiative (otherwise known as “MyFi”), Supplemental Maintenance Fund (maintenance of the parks), the White Rock Lake Conservancy (“The mission of the Conservancy is to enhance the identity, beauty and safety of White Rock Lake”), the White Rock Lake Museum (located inside the Bath House), White Rock Planning and Development (“Funds are used to support the planning, design, and construction of new facilities and amenities, and the reconstruction or restoration of existing infrastructure at the park.”) and the Willis Winters III Memorial Fund (Director Willis Winters’ son).
On September 20, 2013, The Dallas Parks Foundation sent out a mass email and Facebook request. “Support the Dallas Parks Foundation on North Texas Giving Day TODAY! Today is the big North Texas Giving Day, and we are asking you to give – TODAY, between the hours of 7am and midnight. You can make an online donation by visiting www.donorbridgetx.org for the Dallas Parks Foundation and see it multiplied by donated funds from the Communities Foundation of Texas. Visit: donorbridgetx.org Thank you. Samuel Stiles, Director Dallas Parks Foundation.”
However, among the text on the Dallas Parks Foundation web page is the statement, “The vast majority of the City of Dallas’ 374 parks do not receive any dedicated or sustained level of private funding, and only minimal public funding.” (dallasparksfoundation.org/?page_id=29) This sounds likes someone is misleading the public. Either they do, or they don’t, have enough funding. Which is it?
All of this suggests DP&R may be squandering the public funds they’ve been given in good faith, without accountability or oversight, running roughshod over White Rock Lake users. And that is the point.
First, DP&R appears to have no one overseeing them, no checks and balances. In fact, they seem to be have been dysfunctionally out of balance for years. We can all appreciate leadership, but not at the detriment to people, careers, or most importantly, the lake. Second, the stake holders (race directors, and the lake’s number one users, runners and cyclists) have no say, no control with regards to accountability, justification, validation, or verification from DP&R. No one except DP&R has any way to refute or debate their edicts from on high.
The White Rock Lake web site says the following: “White Rock Lake is a unique, 1,015 acre city lake. It offers a wide variety of outdoor activities, including: “hike and bike trail; Audubon Society-designated bird watching area and wetlands site ; numerous scenic picnic areas; rental facilities: Winfrey Point and Big Thicket; fishing piers for catfish, sunfish, and bass fishing; special events, including the March of Dimes Walk America; White Rock Marathon; the White Rock Lake Trash Bash; and numerous sponsored runs” (italics added).
It’s ironic they used pictures of runners and cyclists on the site last year. It’s gone now. But the site does boast a page titled “City of Dallas Trails” that promotes running and cycling at White Rock Lake among the rest of the park.
(Hartwig, along with DRC, Mellew Productions, Run On, and Luke’s Locker come under “numerous sponsored runs”, italics added.) According to the above listing, one would guess the department is encouraging the use of the park. But that’s not always the case. In fact, DP&R rarely, if ever, encourages groups, any groups to use White Rock Lake. Why would they? That would mean more work.
Note the “Fit and Fun Tips” page of the DP&R site with sponsored logo’s from McDonald’s. I “guess” there’s nothing wrong with a city entity accepting sponsorship. But let’s not kid ourselves. This can be another lucrative stream of income, specifically for DP&R.
So, if there’s all this cash coming in, why shake down Hartwig? And make no mistake, it is a shakedown as the other users of the lake will attest. Are they targeting him, specifically? Is it the neighbors he has upset?
The Barker brothers, Ted and Hal are ever diligently watching over their beloved White Rock Lake. They’re the ones who alerted the public about the Arboretum’s land grab parking lot at Winfrey Point, and the formerly named Highland Park row team’s split from the lakes original row team and subsequent building of their own private fun house on the northwest side of the lake. (They are now called Dallas United.) Ted Barker says the Arboretum and row house both have a problem with the waste pipes not being up to city regulation or code.
And it is the Barker brothers who are among Hartwig’s biggest supporters. They see him as doing nothing wrong. In fact, Ted says, Hartwig is doing everything right and more. With some of the community’s heavy hitters as sponsors (Richardson Bike Mart and Baylor Sports Care), Hartwig would look to be OK. So all of this gives one pause. Why is Hartwig getting flack for his White Rock Racing series?
The Dallas Observer did an expose of the Barker brothers in their Aug 29 issue this summer in a column by Jim Schutze titled, “How Dallas’ Barker Brothers Fight City Hall and Win.” (dallasobserver.com/2013-08-29/news/the-barker-brothers-fight-city-hall-and-win/full/) In the story Schutze wrote how vindictive DP&R can be against those who don’t support their way of doing business or thinking.
“Way down in the bowels of the mountain, deep in the subterranean veins of City Hall, mining far below, [there are] little gnomes with tiny jeweled picks and axes, chipping away at the next big surprise for the taxpayers. Stuff is deliberately not stored on mainframes but scattered around the city on desktops somebody thinks nobody else can find. The Barkers can find them. A year ago, proponents of the Winfrey Point parking structure were describing the Barker brothers as dangerously unhinged hermits who sat on high branches and threw acorns at people by White Rock Lake. Now all of sudden they’re elder statesmen. They bring commercial-strength digital muscle to the task, deep technical know-how and dogged persistence. The Barkers explained tricks that agencies can use to squelch an open records demand and the kind of dogged persistence the brothers bring to bear in order to outlast and defeat those tricks. The city of Dallas, they both agreed, operates on an assumption that it can outlast and wear down anybody who wants to get his hands on information the city does not want him to see. But you can’t outlast the Barkers. ‘It’s like a tunnel vision,’ said Ted. ‘The way the city operates is completely predictable. Everything they do is predictable.’ [The Barkers are] reasonable people who just happen to have a lot of ammo. It’s a wonderful thing that [the offices] are more respectful toward naturalists and neighborhood activists and biking enthusiasts.”
In essence, DP&R is a city government office filled with city employees who rack up great benefits. The department hosted “It’s My Park” Day on October 5, attempting to hoodwink the public into doing their work. (Nice try!) “Litter/debris pickup, weeding, mulching” are all listed. Most people don’t do this at their own homes.
As this article was going to press, the Office of Special Events had decided the week before to add more police (cash flow) to Hartwig’s “Lost Dog 20K” on October 6 from Winfrey Point. There was no reason given for the increase and Hartwig had already met the requirements and standards being asked by the office. When Special Events (Lori Chance and Officer Jim Bailey) added the extra police, they turned down Hartwig’s permit for not meeting the suddenly new requirements.
In turn, Hartwig gave the office back the permit saying he wouldn’t need it because none of the race course would be run on park property and therefore, was outside their jurisdiction. At press time, a standoff was eminent.
In the end, Hartwig doesn’t think the persecution he has suffered from the machinery at DP&R is pointed only at him. He feels all the lakes’ users and stake holders are being harassed to some extent. He also points out that not all directors use the facilities he uses or use them as often. As a result, some of the policy changes from DP&R don’t affect other people, certainly not everyone. So it can appear he is being singled out at times. Sometimes, he is not.
White Rock Lake, in particular, has many, many users. In fact, too many users experts with the city point out. It is the equivalent of a small school yard being used for all the students from kindergarten up through a large college, all using the same patch of ground, from the hundreds of runners and cyclists we’re accustomed to, to the rowers, walkers, neighbors, bird watchers, and motorists. Additionally, there is the very recent inclusion of outside animals that have found their way to the lake. This includes the pelicans waiting out the winter, and coyotes feeding on neighborhood pets. DP&R knows this.
In the meantime, livelihoods are at stake, not to mention the enjoyment of the events and the lake. It could take years for DP&R to sort out their problems. All of the players, inside and out, the stake holders, and lake users know DP&R is a dysfunctional work place and agree it isn’t a good place to be employed.
So questions remain about the stonewalling city agencies take toward events produced at White Rock Lake, especially running and cycling, and it appears, specifically towards White Rock Racing. Though city officials at every level have denied the lake has been hijacked or is being held hostage (In return for what?), there is no denying a huge power play by DP&R has escalated to a very serious level of intimidation and not all things legal.
Oddly enough, on the back of all City of Dallas employee cards it reads, “We Can Work It Out.” Everyone, including Hartwig, is hoping so. PTN