Zen city: Seeking solace in an urban environment


While it might not rival New York or Chicago’s urban pandemonium, Dallas is a bustling city with its share of high-stress professions, crowded scenes, road rage and those intermittent heartaches to which no human is immune. If you know where to look, you’ll find our neighborhood offers respite from the daily grind or occasional trauma in the form of peaceful nooks, comforting crannies and uplifting activities. Here, find a guide to our readers’ and our own favorite escapes.

The creek at Beckley Club Estates

Beckley Estates: Photo by Danny Fulgencio
Beckley Estates: Photo by Danny Fulgencio

When Alicia Quintans opens her window shades in the early morning, she can see sunlight casting through the trees and mist off Cedar Creek. The creek is home to waterfowl and other wildlife, and neighbors think the creek’s ecosystem could be part of what keeps the Beckley Club Estates peacock population around. Beckley Club Estates, near the Dallas Zoo, was built in the 1920s. Its developer originally dammed the creek to create three lakes, but when the artificial lakes started causing flooding and unsafe conditions, the city blasted a hole through the dam. So now, the creek runs except in the driest conditions. A greenbelt runs alongside the creek, and neighbors often walk their dogs there. A spillway under Beckley on South Shore draws graffiti, says Quintans, an architect and preservationist. Some neighbors complain about it as a nuisance, but “I appreciate nice work,” she says.

Kiest Park: 3080 S. Hampton

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If your grandparents are from Oak Cliff, they probably hung out at Kiest Park. The park, just north of Kiest Boulevard between Hampton and Rugged, has been a Mecca of teenage activity from the time kids could get the keys to a jalopy and go cruisin’. The park was built in 1931 after Dallas Times Herald publisher Edwin J. Kiest donated 231 acres to the city. Soon after, the Works Progress Administration built a brown fieldstone pavilion, stone entryways and a pergola with a manmade brook. Later, a 2-mile walking path was added, and that, along with baseball fields, tennis courts and playgrounds, keeps the park busy all the time. “I do some of my best thinking and jogging around that track,” says Teresa Coleman Wash of TeCo Theatrical Productions. In the 2006 bond election, voters approved spending about $2 million to improve Kiest Park. The pergola, which had fallen into disrepair and was taken down in the 1960s, recently was rebuilt. Those improvements, which also included repaving the track, took about eight years to materialize but were just completed this past spring, thanks to a continued push from Friends of Oak Cliff Parks.

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Lucky Dog Books: 633 W. Davis

14.05The number of bookshops in our neighborhood recently increased by 50 percent when boutique/cafe The Wild Detectives opened in Bishop Arts. That, along with Imported Books on Clarendon and Lucky Dog Books, gave us three choices in the neighborhood. Not bad in an era that has seen the death of many booksellers including retail giant Borders. The Detectives is a good place to have a pour-over while getting some work done or to meet a friend for a beer. And Uncle Robert’s Imported Books is best for the opportunity to chat with nonagenarian owner Robert N. Jones. But Lucky Dog Books is a place to get lost. Nine-foot shelves hold used paperback and hardcover books by the thousands. A loft offers tables for studying, working, having a quiet meeting or just reading. The shop is an offshoot of the former Paperbacks Plus. When that store lost its lease in Lakewood several years ago, the owners reopened three shops, including the one in Oak Cliff. The others are on Garland Road and in Mesquite. Lucky Dog Books also is a meeting place for writing groups and clubs, and the shop hosts occasional events, including musical performances and writing workshops. Find more information at luckydogbooks.com.

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Oak Cliff Nature Preserve: 2875 Pierce

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Native Texas grasses and wildflowers sway in the late-afternoon spring breeze at Oak Cliff Nature Preserve. The birds are chirping. A plane flies overhead. The occasional whine of sirens or zip-zip of a motorcycle from nearby Hampton and Illinois remind you that you’re in the middle of the city, even though all around is nature. This 111-acre sanctuary is not immune to the pollution of urban life. But it is kept clean and safe thanks to a coalition of mountain bikers. The Dallas Off Road Bicycle Association is more than just a bicycling club. Its members received permission from the Texas Land Conservancy to build 8 miles of mountain bike trails at OCNP in 2006. Since then, DORBA has maintained the Oak Cliff Nature Preserve mountain bike and hiking trails through its stewardship program. The trail stewards are “the unseen heroes” of Dallas mountain biking, says Cash Anglin of DORBA. The association raises money through membership dues, races and grants to maintain 16 mountain bike trails in the Dallas area. The Texas Land Conservancy, which owns the park, also is working on plans to improve the trailhead at OCNP to make it more inviting for picnics and hanging out. DORBA gave the preserve a new life, but it fell into public use in 2002 thanks to the efforts of Oak Cliff preservationists. When a developer announced plans to build homes on the former scouting campground in 1999, neighbors including David Marquis fought to keep more than 100 acres natural in perpetuity. Find more information at dorba.org.

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