A “pocket park,” by definition, is typically less than half an acre in size. And that’s exactly what one group of residents wants to bring to Highland Park.
Keith Van Arsdale, Christopher Westerheide, Beth Huddleston, and Belen Linton, among other East Highland Park residents, followed the town’s recent traffic study. One spot up for discussion was the intersection of Mockingbird Lane and Airline Road.
“Some residents started saying, ‘Hey, right now you have a road that divides the beautiful tennis center and the plaza as well as the pocket park that SMU has put in … what if we just made the whole area a park?’” Van Arsdale said.
And that’s how the idea for Centennial Park was born. The area in question encompasses roughly 0.8 acres that is split in two by Airline Road and backs up to SMU’s new tennis center. With the recent construction along Mockingbird, the area was already blocked off to through traffic, giving residents a sample of what it would be like.
“The neighborhood kids are now playing, it’s quieter, there’s less traffic,” Van Arsdale said.
Of course, the park cannot exist without the go-ahead from Highland Park Town Council. Pro-park residents presented their material to the council in late July, but the item has not yet been considered for a vote.
“Our town council is always pleased to receive residents’ suggestions as to how the quality of life in Highland Park can be improved,” Mayor Joel Williams said.
Williams said the item is expected to go before the council in October and town engineers are pulling further traffic data.
The residents also presented their information to SMU officials, who similarly were not able to give a public opinion.
“Essentially, it was an opportunity for us to show them what we were thinking and to bring them into the discussion,” Westerheide said.
Many SMU students cross that intersection to get to the Katy Trail and the tennis center. In that way, safety is just as much a concern for the students as it is their neighbors.
“When they brought in all those dorms, we saw a tremendous increase of pedestrian and bicycle traffic,” Linton said. “It is so, so dangerous, and all those kids are wearing headphones … anything could happen at any time.”
Park supporters launched a website, hpcentennialpark.com, and began distributing yard signs in late July.