The Trinity River Corridor’s Rich History

June 23, 2014 by Will Schnier P.E.

The Trinity River Corridor’s Rich History

The Trinity River Corridor Project will play a significant role in Dallas’s history. Once complete, it will make the city safer and provide development, recreation opportunities, and a boost for native ecology. But the river’s history within Dallas stretches goes much deeper than the Trinity River Corridor Project. The river has provided challenges, as well as opportunities, for the city; it’s been at times a danger, and at other times a boon for economic development.

This is the fourth 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.

Dallas has always been intertwined with the river. In 1841 John Neely Bryan, the founder of Dallas, settled on the East bank of the Trinity River and began operating a ferry across it. By the late 1800’s, steamships were navigating the Trinity, going as far as Galveston by the end of the century.

river photo
Photo courtesy of

In 1908 the “Great Flood” wiped out thousands of homes and caused $2.5 million in property damage. The flooding prompted calls for a levee project. By 1926, the City of Dallas and Dallas County had formed the Dallas Levee Improvement District, and by 1930, the levee project was complete.

Starting in the 1940’s, proposals for parkways and recreation areas around the river began to take shape. Economic development also started booming on the banks of the Trinity.

Trammell Crow, founder of commercial real estate firm Trammell Crow Company and Dallas native, would become the largest commercial builder in the Trinity River Industrial District by the time the 1950’s drew to a close. Trammell Crow, along with various partners, built more than 50 warehouses with more than 2 million square feet of space in that district in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

Crow went on to develop major Dallas landmarks, including merchandise marts like the Dallas Design District, Dallas Trade Mart, Dallas Market Hall, Dallas Apparel Mart and World Trade Center, and the Anatole Hotel, Medical City, Bryan Tower, and Pioneer Plaza.

By the 1970’s, Dallas officials began considering a “town lake” that would take shape in the Dallas Floodway and development and recreation opportunities. Meanwhile, in 1983, the state approved a portion of the river below the levee system as a State Park, although the funding was not in place to build it.

The town lake idea advanced and grew in the 1980’s, and voters approved a bond. After flooding in 1989 and 1990, Dallas asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reevaluate the Dallas Floodway Extension. In 1996 Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk expanded on that and brought together several state and national agencies to discuss improvements within the corridor.

Out of those meetings, the current Trinity River Corridor Project began to take shape. In 1998 Dallas voters approved a $246 million Capital Bond Program to kick off the project. Since then, as the project has progressed, Dallas has continued to grow alongside its parks, bridges, and habitats.

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.