After a long pandemic pause, plans to remodel Hattie R. Moore Park resumed in the last few months.
After listening to residents in early 2020, the City of Dallas planned to add colorful murals, artificial turf, family grills, playground equipment and more athletic fields to the park in the Los Altos neighborhood, located just south of Anita Martinez Recreation Center and Lorenzo de Zavala Elementary School.
The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 stalled such efforts, but the city is now circling back to neighbors to try to confirm plans for the park.
The park was established in 1949 and named for Hattie Rankin Moore, a West Dallas Methodist minister who founded the Eagle Ford Mission, and encouraged people ostracized by other churches to join their church.
In her pursuit toward positive changes for West Dallas, Rankin was never forgotten by the community. Eagle Ford Mission was renamed Rankin Chapel in honor of her, and later became Wesley Rankin Community Center.
Rankin’s main effort was to stop crime in West Dallas. In an article about Rankin, The Dallas Gateway mentions her belief that recreation was fundamental for neighborhoods in West Dallas to help kids stay out of trouble.
“Folks wonder why so many West Dallas boys turn out to be criminals. … they haven’t a dog’s chance to be anything else. We have no parks, no playgrounds, no handy schools, no lights, no water, no gas. The dogs in Dallas are housed better than our boys and girls,” Rankin said in a letter to the editor of a local newspaper.
Eight decades after these words, West Dallas continues in its quest for a safer neighborhood with enough community spaces for recreation.
Hattie R. Moore is one of the oldest parks in West Dallas. The City of Dallas planned to begin remodeling the park in August 2020 and complete renovations by March 2021, but the park’s masterplan was placed on hold when COVID hit.
Opinions from the community were recorded during the meeting in February 2020, but a year and a half after the first meeting, the community’s ideas of what they want for the park might be different. That’s why the City of Dallas Park and Recreation Department sent out a survey in June 2021 asking once again what community members want in their park.
City of Dallas project manager Jared White says mailers went out to the roughly 30 people who attended the February 2020 community meeting, and also to “neighborhood stakeholders and folks that are really active in the community,” but over two months this summer, only three people have completed the survey. White says West Dallas neighbors need to respond as soon as possible so the City can proceed with the masterplan.
“We’re gonna have to call the design team and pause the next steps,” White says. “Usually, we’d be moving to the next phase, but we’ve kind of lost a little bit of ground since we didn’t get a big response from the community.”
Raul Reyes Jr., vice-president of the Los Altos neighborhood association, questions the city’s survey dissemination, saying he never received the form. He believes sending out a survey is not the best option to get the community involved in the decision making; instead, he’d like the city to host an in-person meeting. With the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus increasing, Reyes suggests an outdoor meeting with social distancing requirements needed in order to make the gathering safe.
“We are living in a period where people don’t want to leave their house, but if you give them a reason to attend an in-person meeting and speak out on what they’d like to see in the park, they would definitely attend.”
White says he is considering an in-person meeting in the next month or two at the Anita Martinez Recreation Center, as long as COVID conditions allow.
“There’s still a lot of change that needs to be made; we’ll keep making those changes ’til we get it right and make sure the community’s comments are properly reflected,” White says.
Budget and amenities
A big part of why community members’ opinions are important to the masterplan is budgeting, White says.
The overall budget for the entire 2017 bond program is $1.05 billion dollars. Out of all that money, the park and recreation department was allocated $261.81 million for remodeling multiple parks in Dallas. Hattie R. Moore Park was allocated $350,000, and White says the budget could increase depending on what neighbors want.
“Based on community input, consultants from the bond program will come up with a concept and based on that concept, they’ll develop cost estimates,” White says.
The plan is to include a statue of Hattie Rankin Moore that tells her story so people understand who she was and her contribution to West Dallas. Neighbors also conveyed that they want a safe place for community events such as Mother’s Day celebrations, Cinco de Mayo or Christmas caroling.
Another important amenity that the community requested is a soccer field. One proposal still under review is to convert one of the tennis courts into a futsal soccer court, White says. Whether or not this happens, he confirmed the park will have a large open space where people could play soccer.
Reyes says the most important thing is to have another safe space where kids and families can go and distract themselves.
“I’d like to see a place that is accessible to the community,” he says. “We don’t want a competition soccer field or any of those things; we just want a space where we can entertain our families.”
A public park for the community
A few soccer fields are located not far from Hattie R. Moore Park, but none of them are open for public use. The field at Benito Juarez Parque de Heroes, blocks away from Hattie R. Moore, is fenced in and must be rented from the city to use.
White says that once Hattie R. Moore renovations are complete, the park will operate freely for the community, meaning they won’t have to pay any fees to use the facilities.
The park’s adjacency to Lorenzo de Zavala Elementary School and Anita Martinez Recreation Center means that rec center visitors and schoolchildren also can utilize the park’s amenities. The park is “kind of an irregularly shaped park” because of how it’s integrated with the rec center and the school, White says, and he thinks that “the three places being connected will bring a lot of good improvements to the park.”
White hopes the masterplan will be finished by the end of 2021 so that West Dallas residents can soon have a new place for community recreation.
Better yet, the renewal of Hattie R. Moore park could serve as the beginning of renovations for parks across West Dallas in future bond programs, White says, bringing to life Hattie Rankin Moore’s vision of a safer West Dallas.