Beyond The Report: Revitalizing Parks In 'The Prettiest Part Of Our Community'

Jul 7, 2021

On a mild Monday evening, people cast their lines into the Historic Dunbar Lake, hoping a fish will bite. At the other end of the park system, families picnic and walk the trails along Conquistador Lake. 

 

This is how Mari Huerta thinks of the Canyon Lakes system -- a tranquil slice of nature. She’s enjoyed the North Lubbock lakes since she was a kid.

“We would go and get a snow cone or an ice cream cone and then just go sit and dip our feet in the water,” Huerta said. 

Huerta still enjoys the lakes. But she no longer dips her toes in. 

“You can’t even do that now,” she said. “The water is so slimy.” 

The Jackson-Mahon neighborhood resident said beyond basic maintenance, she’d like to see the parks develop into a desirable community center that offers entertainment and maybe even restaurants and retail. She envisions a Lubbock version of San Antonio’s River Walk. She said it would be nice to see desirable businesses surround the Canyon Lakes rather than the industrial ones that dot the path.

While the full plan is only in the early stages of development, The City of Lubbock is looking to revitalize the Canyon Lakes system that sprawls from beyond Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard for miles west through the neighborhoods of North Lubbock. It was a top recommendation in the city’s comprehensive plan, Plan Lubbock 2040. 

Huerta’s excitement for the project comes with a dose of reality, after decades of feeling left behind by urban development.

“It's almost like, when our kids, they want new toys. Right? But they haven’t been taking care of the ones they have,” Huerta explained. “That’s kind of the way Lubbock is. We have all this beautiful property. We haven’t taken care of it. But, yet, we’re growing.” 

Huerta said she welcomes the opportunity to bring new life to older areas.

The city hopes to make the Canyon Lakes a destination for recreation in the region by investing in upgrades. Including Mackenzie Park, the lake system accounts for more than half of the total park land in Lubbock. So, it’s going to be a major part of the city’s development of a master parks plan.

Cobly Van Gundy, the director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Lubbock, explained at a recent city meeting that the goal of the master plan is to outline a series of strategies, actions and initiatives to improve all of the city’s parks. 

“The thing that I'm focusing on now, and the very first thing, is to keep it clean and safe,” Van Gundy said. “The next step would be aesthetics and the third step would be the amenities.”

So far, the city has received a grant from Texas Parks & Wildlife to add new trail markers, a water station and bike racks to the mountain bike trail that snakes along Canyon Lakes Drive. The work on that is expected to start next year. Van Gundy said it’s a step in the right direction to better link the lakes.

The city hopes that investing in park amenities will lead to more events at the Canyon Lakes, like the recent Ironman 70.3 Triathlon. Athletes started that race with a swim in the Historic Dunbar Lake and ended on foot on the Texas Tech University campus. This was the second year the late-June event utilized the lakes. 

Mayor Dan Pope said the event highlighted a jewel in Lubbock’s otherwise dry, flat scenery. 

“One of the reasons we want to do this here is so many Lubbockites never get east of the interstate,” Pope said at a news conference before the triathlon. “This is the oldest part of our community, it’s the prettiest part of our community and it’s something that we’re very proud of.”

East Lubbock advocate Phyllis Gant said she has always been proud of the parks, but she said she has seen little interest in the lakes near historically-Black neighborhoods until recently. She questions why. 

“It’s never been cleaned in my 58 years. Ever. Until they got ready to put canoes in there,” Gant said. “This Canyon Lake has never been an entity until it became scenery for the leadership.”

The city has emphasized they want North and East Lubbock residents to be actively involved in the Canyon Lakes planning process to ensure needs and wants are met. Gant is in favor of improvements that could boost community pride in the parks. For example, she’d like to see one lake officially named in honor of past civic leader Mae Simmons or another East Lubbock icon.

“That would send volumes,” Gant said. “That would let us know that you’re not trying to take it over.”

Gant said she wants all Lubbockites to see the beauty in her community. She just doesn’t want that beauty to be hurt in the process.

 

A new season of Texas Tech Public Media’s multimedia series “Beyond The Report” looks at how Plan Lubbock 2040 could affect neighborhoods that feel forgotten. For more, visit beyondthereportlbk.com.

 

Have a news tip? Email Sarah Self-Walbrick at saselfwa@ttu.edu. Follow her reporting on Twitter @SarahFromTTUPM.

 

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