Recreation and Environmental Stewardship In the Trinity River Corridor

June 16, 2014 by Will Schnier P.E.

Recreation and Environmental Stewardship In the Trinity River Corridor

recreation photo
Photo courtesy of

The Trinity River Corridor Project (TRCP), a massive public works and economic development undertaking, has several components, including flood control, transportation, development, recreation, and environmental restoration. One of the most visible facets of the project is the transformation of nearly 20 miles within central Dallas into recreation space and protected ecological regions. The land impacted by the project, about 10,000 acres, is changing from under-utilized open space to urban parks and habitats.

A great example of the project’s environmental stewardship is the Trinity River Audubon Center, which opened in 2008. The land it sits on was once home to an illegal landfill. The city of Dallas acquired the site through a lawsuit, and began remediating the land. Today the land is an environmental and recreation asset for the city, and home to the 21,000 square foot LEED Gold Audubon building.

This is the third of a five-part series about the Trinity River Corridor Project. We’ll be featuring a new post on the BIG RED Blog about the Trinity River Corridor Project each week during June.

Click here to read all of our posts about the Trinity River Corridor Project.

Trinity Habitats

habitat photo
Photo courtesy of

There are a variety of ecosystems along the Trinity River, from forests to marshland. Even before the 1998 and 2006 bonds that kicked off much of the Trinity River Corridor Project, city officials had made the decision to acquire the Great Trinity Forest in order to become its steward.  It is one of the largest urban bottomland hardwood forests in the country. It spans over 6,000 acres and is home to giant Bur Oak, Cedar Elm, Cottonwood, Pecan, Post Oak, Live Oak, and Bois d’arc trees, hundreds of migratory birds, as well as ponds and meadows.

The forest is part of Dallas’s history; as the city’s landscape changed from agricultural to urban in the 1940’s, the cotton and grain fields in the river’s floodplain were abandoned. Spring flooding brought seeds from upstream trees to the former fields, where they took root and formed the young forest.

The city of Dallas approved a 100-year Great Trinity Forest Management Plan in 2008 in order to ensure the forest’s future.

The wetlands along the Trinity River are another environmentally valuable habitat. Both natural and manmade wetlands provide flood control, improve water quality, and act as a habitat for wildlife.

The Dallas Floodway Extension is creating a chain of wetlands that will help store and dissipate floodwater along the west side of the Trinity River from Corinth to Loop 12. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been planting vegetation around these “cells,” and once established the plants will provide a habitat for mammals, bird, reptiles, and fish, and will act as the foundation for a natural food chain.


The Trinity River Corridor Project also includes large, urban parks. The Trinity Lakes region is planned to stretch from the merging of the West Fork and the Elm Fork of the Trinity River and continue to the Santa Fe Trestle Trail in the south near Corinth Street and Eighth Street. Within the region, two large lakes, an amphitheater with floating stage, wetlands, walking paths, and boardwalks are envisioned. Two parks, Trammell Crow Park and Trinity Overlook Park are already complete and offer picnic space, soccer fields, and walking trails.

The West Dallas Lake is more than 2,000 meters long, which means it meets Olympic standards for the length of a rowing course. Officials envision submerged wetland islands of water lilies dividing lanes, so that competitive rowers can race on the lake.

Trinity Fields, the first phase of which is already complete, sits at the Elm Fork of the river. It includes woodland and riparian planting, 11 athletic fields for sports like soccer, a trail system, and boardwalks with bird overlooks.

We want to know what you think about the Trinity River Corridor Project! What is your favorite part of the project? What are you most looking forward to? What would you like to see done differently?

Leave your comments below.


Written by Will Schnier P.E.

Will Schnier P.E.

Will Schnier is the Chief Executive Officer of BIG RED DOG Engineering | Consulting. Will received his BSCE from Purdue University and co-founded BIG RED DOG Engineering and Consulting in 2009. Since starting the firm in 2009, BIG RED DOG has grown to over 100 team members with offices in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. BIG RED DOG has garnered awards for being one of the 50 fastest growing companies in Texas (Business Journal’s Fast 50 in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015) and an ENR top 100 Design Firm in Texas and Louisiana (2012, 2103, 2014, 2015). Mr. Schnier is very well versed in the project review and development permitting process having worked closely and very successfully with City and County review staff, neighborhood associations, environmental groups, and public boards and councils. He has been responsible for the project management, engineering design, and regulatory permitting of hundreds of single family subdivision projects, mixed use and multifamily residential developments, industrial facilities and oil and gas development projects throughout Texas. He is the author of two publications: “Land Subdivision – A Practical Guide for Central Texas” and “The Book on License Agreements in the City of Austin”. Will was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Real Estate Council of Austin (RECA) in 2014 and served as Mayor Lee Leffingwell’s appointment to the City of Austin Zoning Board of Adjustment from 2011 to 2015.