The fight over Kessler Park’s hidden passageway

Kessler Park steps: Photo by Danny Fulgencio
Kessler Park steps: Photo by Danny Fulgencio

When architects designed Kessler Park in the early 1920s, they left the oldest trees and laid the streets to match the natural landscape. Twenty triangular pocket parks were planned, and stone steps offered pedestrian passageways between hilly streets.

Some of those steps remain open and usable, such as the ones from Belleau Drive up to Windomere.

But at least one set of the original Kessler Park steps became overgrown with brush and bamboo and forgotten for years. These steps, from Kessler Parkway at Edgefield up to Canterbury Court, have become the subject of a neighborhood fight.

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About a year ago, City Councilman Scott Griggs found bond money that could’ve paid to reopen and restore the steps. But some neighbors living closest to the steps, on Canterbury, opposed reopening them. So Griggs instead used the bond funds to extend the Coombs Creek Trail.

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Since the steps are on a 30-foot public right of way between homes, a few neighbors took it upon themselves to clear the steps, working with machetes to cut away tall bamboo.

Because there are no sidewalks in the neighborhood, the steps are convenient for pedestrians wishing to walk from Kessler Parkway toward Colorado.

“It can be dangerous to walk on Edgefield,” says Kessler Park resident Don Sanders.

Sanders says neighbors living closest to the steps have shooed people trying to clear the steps and even threatened to call the police, claiming they were trespassing. One neighbor declined to comment. One did not return phone calls. And a third just moved in a few weeks ago.

Neighbors on Canterbury asked the city to close the steps because of safety concerns, so orange barriers block them at Edgefield and Canterbury, even though they’re usable.

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  • Pingback: Kessler Steps to be closed, repaired | Oak Cliff()

  • downtownworker

    I’m not sure I understand what you’re upset about. If you’re concerned about cars, then you should want the pedestrian passageways open, as I do.

    If the neighborhood streets are too dangerous, that’s another issue entirely, but I suggest you get with your neighborhood association and push for a road diet to reduce the number of lanes. This is being done in other parts of Oak Cliff by adding buffered bike lanes, which are proven to slow down traffic.

  • Mom

    It’s sad that the homeowners can’t respect the original design of their neighborhood? I have news for you; it’s NOT the same neighborhood. Edgefield is not the street that it was 10 – 20 or 30 years ago. I walk past the entry to the park on Edgefield every day and I can attest to the danger of that curve on Edgefield. With cars whizzing blindly around the corner, it’s just a matter of time before someone gets hit. I cannot tell you how many squirrels, birds and ducks have been flattened by clueless drivers. And the stop sign at the bottom of the hill is a joke. Drivers run it all the time.

  • paisano57

    Because for those misanthropes, crime scene tape, orange cones, orange barriers are so la rive gauche.

  • downtownworker

    Sad that some of these homeowners can’t respect the original design of their neighborhood and the intent of its founders. At the end of the day, the question must be asked: is it your property or is it public ROW? If it’s the latter, then maybe you can offer to buy it from the city (i.e. the rest of us).

  • Amanda

    I hate to be obtuse, but architects don’t design parks, landscape architects do. In fact, George Kessler himself was a landscape architect.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Kessler

  • Bob Dobbins

    I have a weird relationship with those stairs. I found those stairs by accident when I was out for a jog while waiting on my child at Greiner. So the years go by and I keep having these dreams about the place but I forgot it was a real place. Then one day I rode my bike by it – all of sudden, I realized that was the place in my dreams. And then I never dreamed about it again. I think that part of Oak Cliff is criss-crossed with passages like that – there is a similar one just off Hampton north of the golf course – you just have to find them and hope the neighbors don’t shoot you. East Dallas has the long rambling connections – but OC has the tiny dreamscapes.