A letter from the Board of the Turtle Creek Conservancy
Regarding The Voice article, Opinion: Is homophobia behind proposed name change of Oak Lawn Park? published online at DallasVoice.com on Monday, Feb. 4, the writer, David Taffet, did a disservice to the longstanding and supportive relationship that has existed between the Conservancy (now called the Turtle Creek Conservancy) and the LGBT community.
There were a number of factual errors in the editorial, and we are surprised Mr. Taffett would suggest a political motive to our organization’s efforts to change the name of Oak Lawn Park to Turtle Creek Park. After all, the LGBT community, through the Dallas Tavern Guild, was one of the founders of our organization, and we have outstanding representation from the neighborhood as well as a number of people on the current and past boards that are gay.
The answer to the question posed in the headline of the piece is, absolutely not. When the decision was made to remove the city-owned Robert E. Lee statue, almost immediately neighbors began contacting us, asking for a name change to Turtle Creek Park. For the last year-and-a-half, momentum has been building for that moniker. At the time of the 2017 controversy, the park board’s process for renaming parks was under a lengthy review, so the logical step for members was to change the name from Lee Park back to Oak Lawn Park, the original label when the parkland was purchased by the city in 1909, not donated in 1903.
Frankly, the statue debate has been very costly to the Conservancy, since few people wanted to book events here, even after the protests ended. The Conservancy’s mission is to care for and maintain the grounds as well as raise essential funds to support this special urban oasis. We are, after all, the fiduciaries for the organization, and we have an obligation to care for, protect and preserve the park.
To that end, hundreds of our immediate neighbors, who use the park daily, strongly support renaming the park as Turtle Creek Park, a non-controversial and apolitical name that salutes the natural resources here. They don’t want to be tied, again, to a specific person. Instead, they believe, and our board agrees, the most appropriate name would reflect our geographic location across from the landmark creek. After all, it also mirrors our address at 3333 Turtle Creek Blvd.
To ascribe any other motive to the renaming application is unfair and completely untrue. Most importantly, please know we want this park to be open and welcoming to all in its next 100 years.
We have stood side-by-side with the LGBT community on a number of issues, especially the relocation of the Alan Ross Memorial with the tribute to those who died from AIDS. It was the Conservancy that recommended an event marking the 25-year anniversary of the tree planting and plaque memorial, and we distributed daffodils in remembrance of Mr. Ross. The park is also an important part of Pride parade history since it was the final destination for the celebration, an event so successful it has been moved to Fair Park. Finally, as proof of our partnership, we also present the annual Easter event that has always had notable LGBT participation.
So, in order to end this letter on a positive note, please accept this article as your first invitation to Easter in the Park on Sunday, April 21, from 1-4 p.m. We also need, now more than ever, your monetary contributions. You can contribute at TheParkConservancy.org. Please consider this to be an investment in our — and we do mean our — neighborhood park.
The Board of the Turtle Creek Conservancy