Mountain Creek Lake Park: A Deep Dive into Discovery
Located in Grand Prairie, Texas, Mountain Creek Lake Park (MCLP) is a 117-acre park that sits on the banks of Mountain Creek Lake and has been over-looked for years as development and investment has increased around the community. With a largely Hispanic community, most residents are Mexican or of Mexican descent. The area’s sense of community is distinct and residents want to protect the park– along with maintaining its authenticity and culture.
For TBG, the process began with discovery focusing on connectivity and ecology first and foremost. TBG Director of Sustainability Mikel Wilkins worked with the team on environmental mitigation strategies including watersheds and run off. From there, the MCLP team began to pay close attention to the pedestrian and vehicular access to create functional, accessible pathways, and inventoried existing amenities. Safety and security were priorities, and illegal vehicular access and nighttime activities were taken into deep consideration at these beginning steps.
From a regional perspective, the team began to emphasize the connection to the community along with Hensley Field — once the site of US Army airfield training following its lease from the city of Dallas. In 1998, Hensley Field was returned to the city and is currently undergoing a master planning process for future redevelopment. Graphics were then broken down into digestible categories including vehicular, drainage sub-basins, “eco-zones,” canopy coverage, and pedestrian. These were further refined with the new categories of topography and slope analysis, and imagery was added. Eco-zones were then defined, followed by discussing opportunities and constraints.
In September 2020, we held the first community engagement meeting. Residents were asked two questions: what they love about the existing park and what they would improve about the park. The in-person feedback revealed longstanding safety and security concerns. Specifically, residents wanted to put an end to driving within the park, something that is a common occurrence to achieve lake access. Another popular response from the feedback was increased amenities like sidewalks, benches, a dog park, and sport courts. It was clear the residents desired spaces that would maintain the feeling of community — spaces that will create engagement with one another. A digital survey in English and Spanish was also created to help reach as many community members as possible.
The next step in the process was to create functional use diagrams for the park to show potential ways users could interact with the site.
The design team ultimately created three concepts named Family Tree, ‘New’clear Family, and Family Roots. The three concepts were chosen to bridge a connection with the park’s new name, Mi Familia. Like many of the area’s residents, Councilman Del Bosque has strong ties to the park and as a Latino man, family played an integral in his life and upbringing.
The big idea of this concept is to take a decentralized approach which aims to distribute programming throughout the site and activate the northern and southern portions. The pod-like design makes it favorable for phasing and could potentially make it easier to work with the landscape as is with less grading and intervention. Features of this concept include picnic nodes along the paths as well as a dog park in the north and educational nodes along northern trails.
This concept takes a more centralized approach that creates an urban feel and keeps the amenities close to their original positions near parking. These amenities include food trucks, a splash pad, a renovated and expanded playground, a renovated pavilion, and a plaza. The plaza provides room for a variety of activities and the northern and southern portions of the park are free to remain low impact. This concept also features exercise nodes along the paths.
This design concept works with the existing locations of amenities and paths and has the lightest touch on the landscape of the three concepts. It was designed to be low impact with minimal disturbance in northern and southern portions of the park. Most of the work will be focused on the central amenity node with points of interest located on the trails. It was further designed with a focus on ecology and the natural experience and features educational nodes along the paths.
The Chosen Concept
Ultimately, “Family Roots” was the concept chosen by the city. The city particularly liked the maintenance of the existing amenity location and overall lightness of the plan. Staying within their budget was a big factor for the city’s decision and they felt confident TBG could deliver a park on time and in budget with this concept.
Eight months later, we partnered with the city for a second community engagement meeting, and the team presented the concept to the community that surrounds Mountain Creek Lake Park. The feedback presented a focus on amenities—both existing and proposed, and activities for kids. Another key takeaway from the community feedback was maintenance and safety, and the on-going concern despite the increased security.
With a concept selected, we are currently working on a master plan for Mountain Creek Lake Park which will go to City Council for review in July. Many community members are enthusiastic about the future of Mountain Creek Lake Park as are we. It’s a space that has been so well-used and well-loved but has lacked proper upkeep and conservation.
TBG hopes to reflect the character of the community onto the park and also hopes the neighborhood sees it as part of who they are. It’s been an integral part in many of their lives’ and will expectedly be an example of what their neighborhood and city can become.