East Kessler neighbors fight Coombs Creek erosion

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The East Kessler water wagon has a 525-gallon tank and is available to five neighborhood associations in Oak Cliff. Photo courtesy of Tim Herfel

Warning signs caution people away from parts of Coombs Creek in East Kessler Park. The creek banks are eroding fast and are so steep that it’s a hazard to get too close. Hundred-year-old trees are losing ground and falling over dead because of drought and soil erosion.

Fighting the erosion is a losing battle, but the East Kessler Park Neighborhood Association is waging a war against it. After all, Coombs Creek Park is all that separates the stunning homes of Kessler Parkway from the clamor of Interstate 30.

The neighborhood association used a $1,700 grant from the Urban Forestry Advisory Committee to hire urban designers Verdunity to come up with a plan to mitigate soil erosion and create a vision for the park as well as the six medians along Kessler Parkway.

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What neighbors call "The Grand Canyon of East Kessler" is a badly eroded section of Coombs Creek near Kessler Parkway and Junior Drive.
What neighbors call “The Grand Canyon of Kessler Park” is a badly eroded section of Coombs Creek near Kessler Parkway and Junior Drive.

The overall plan could take years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete. But they’re taking it one step at a time. First up, planting trees.

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Trees fare better in groves. So the strategy is to plant new trees behind old-growth trees, which should draw the old trees away from the creek banks and toward their new tree buddies. Trees and shrubs also are a way of naturally armoring the banks and slowing erosion.

Neighbors applied for 55 trees from the city through the Dallas Urban Reforestation Program. The trees are free, but planting them and keeping them alive is up to the neighborhood.

The new trees will require regular watering for the first three years. So East Kessler neighbors applied for and won a $2,400 Old Oak Cliff Conservation League grant to pay for a water wagon. Neighbor Tim Herfel built the wagon, and the neighborhood association negotiated with Dallas Water Utilities to gain access to a metered hydrant to fill the 525-gallon tank in about 7 minutes. Otherwise, filling it with a garden hose would take about an hour and a half.

This drawing from Verdunity shows a preliminary conceptual design of a curb cut and rain garden in Coombs Creek Park.
This drawing from Verdunity shows a preliminary conceptual design of a curb cut and rain garden in Coombs Creek Park.

The trees, each one of which requires a 5-foot hole, will be planted over two years, from Sylvan to the levee beyond where the Coombs Creek Trail now ends.

That plan also includes creating curb cuts along Kessler Parkway that would allow rainwater to flow into the park and water the trees instead of flowing into the gutter.Verdunity’s master plan for the park also includes simple playgrounds and seating areas.

Allan Clemons of the East Kessler Neighborhood Association says four other Oak Cliff neighborhood associations also have access to the water wagon, although none have requested it so far.

The neighborhood’s fundraiser, Fall Thing, is Saturday, Sept. 27, at 940 Kessler Parkway. The neighborhood association hopes to raise about $12,000, all of which would go to implementing the park plan. They’re seeking sponsors at levels from $300-$1,000. To contribute, contact Allan Clemons.

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