Transforming West Dallas' Fish Trap Lake Park on National Public Lands Day
September 26, 2023
Michael Pope

Toyota and the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) unveiled a project to transform Fish Trap Lake Park in West Dallas, focusing on increasing access to environmental education for local youth and implementing much-needed site improvements. 

The three-year, $150,000 project was unveiled as part of kick-off festivities for the 30th annual National Public Lands Day, the largest single-day volunteer event for America’s public lands. Created and coordinated by the National Environmental Education Foundation, NPLD was established in 1994 and is held annually on the fourth Saturday in September. 

Representatives from NEEF, Toyota, grant partners Trinity Park Conservancy and Builders of Hope, and employees from Dallas Housing Authority and Toyota joined community members to clean up the park and learn about water quality and the different types of insects present at the lake. 

Man with red shirt standing in front of a banner
Gregg Swartz of Toyota addresses the participants at the Fish Trap Lake NPLD event. Photo by Gabe Wolf.

“For more than 20 years, Toyota, and our partners at NEEF, have worked together to care for America’s public parks, forests, and waterways through a variety of grantmaking initiatives and events like National Public Lands Day,” said Gregg Swartz, group manager of EV Infrastructure & Business Strategy at Toyota. “This project will improve Fish Trap Lake Park as a space for families to spend time in a safe, clean local park together, for students to connect to the natural world, and for a thriving West Dallas community at-large.”

A Diamond in the Rough

Fish Trap Lake Park sits on approximately 80 acres of land along the Trinity River just west of downtown Dallas. West Dallas was built by “generations of working-class families, a majority of whom were Latinx and Black, as early as the 1800s,” according to the West Dallas Community Vision Plan. 

Exposure to environmental pollution from nearby industrial plants has negatively impacted West Dallas residents for decades. Fish Trap Lake Park’s current location was part of a larger EPA Superfund site in 1991; however, the area was deemed successfully remediated in 2006. The park sits within a block of many nonprofit and educational stakeholders, as well as four Dallas Housing Authority communities. 

Young girl near a water sampling tray
A young participant examines the macroinvertebrates in the waters of Fish Trap Lake. Photo by Gabe Wolf.

The park is well-situated to become a valuable resource in the community for enjoying the outdoors, gathering with family and friends, and learning about the local environment, in alignment with the West Dallas Community Vision Plan. 

Connecting Communities with Their Local Environment

NEEF is expanding its current partnership with Toyota with a three-year, $150,000 project to benefit Fish Trap Lake Park and the West Dallas community. NEEF has been active in the community for the past year, identifying potential partners, working with local stakeholders, and soliciting feedback from the community on what upgrades they would like to see at the park.

NEEF will implement the project through close partnerships with Trinity Park Conservancy, who will oversee environmental education with local youth and community volunteer events, and Builders of Hope, who will oversee community input and park events. This community input will inform future park improvements, many of which will be completed within the three-year time frame and project scope. 

We are committed to championing the Trinity River as the natural place for gathering in Dallas, and to connecting our neighbors to nature and to one another,

Tony Moore, president and CEO of Trinity Park Conservancy

“We are committed to championing the Trinity River as the natural place for gathering in Dallas, and to connecting our neighbors to nature and to one another,” said Tony Moore, president and CEO of Trinity Park Conservancy. “Pockets of nature within the urban core of our city—places like Fish Trap Lake Park—are a template for how we can all make our part of Dallas a little better, a little more special, and a little more welcoming.”

National Public Lands Day: Thirty Years of Care and Community

On Saturday, NEEF held a special National Public Lands Day Signature Event at Fish Trap Lake Park to formally kick off the partnership and commemorate the 30th annual National Public Lands Day. The event focused on connecting people to public lands in their community, inspiring environmental stewardship, and educating local youth about environmental quality.

During the event, volunteers and local families had the opportunity to dive into water quality and environmental science with a fun macroinvertebrate activity and kickstart the park’s new volunteer event series with a park clean-up. Attendees also had the option to participate in a park assessment activity to have their voices heard about future improvements to Fish Trap Lake Park. 

Banner in the wind with volunteer in the background picking up trash
Toyota volunteer picks up trash at the NPLD event at Fish Trap Lake Park. Photo by Gabe Wolf.

Further community input will be gathered through a series of events and meetings, a public survey, and canvassing by local nonprofit Builders of Hope, as well as collaboration with the West Dallas One neighborhood association. 

“We are thankful for Toyota, the national corporate sponsor of National Public Lands Day, as well as our seven federal agency partners, hundreds of state and local partners, and dozens of nonprofit organizations for helping us reach this 30-year milestone,” said Sara Espinoza, president and CEO of NEEF. “Most importantly, we are excited to work with the community of West Dallas to improve access to the high-quality parks and trails that they—and all Americans—deserve.”