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In north Oak Cliff, traffic calming comes with a touch of Texas prairie

After more than a decade, roundabout installed at Tyler and Polk streets to create safer space for pedestrians.

Mateo Creixell
Mateo Creixell, a 17-year-old rising senior at Cistercian Preparatory School, scatters a blackland prairie seed mix over the traffic circle at the confluence of Tyler and Polk streets, Thursday, June 16, 2022 in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas. Creixell and four other Cistercian students teamed up with Oak Cliff community organizers to transplant over 1500 blackland prairie plants from Harry S. Moss Park to beautify the 2-week-old traffic circle.(Jeffrey McWhorter / Special Contributor)

By Sriya Reddy

A new roundabout at Tyler and Polk streets in north Oak Cliff aims to slow traffic and create a safer space for pedestrians. It also brings a touch of native Texas wildflowers to the city landscape.

While neighbors say they are happy to finally have the roundabout in place, it is taking drivers a while to get used to it. Some honk at their fellow drivers and others slow down in confusion.

The roundabout officially opened two weeks ago, on the northern end of Tyler and Polk, two formerly high-speed one ways that are now two-way roads.

It is covered in native Texas grasses and wildflowers.

For Kings Highway resident Johnathan Braddick, the roundabout will hopefully mean safer street-crossing for his young daughters as they walk to Kidd Springs Park. Braddick has lived in the neighborhood since 2006 and was a part of the efforts to insert the roundabout since it was first conceived over a decade ago.

Braddick said that many in Oak Cliff feel like their voices don’t matter. For him, this change is an example that they do.

“This was one of those projects that was resident-driven from the beginning,” he said. “The idea that we as a neighborhood control how our streets behave, because we live there, is an important idea.”

An inauguration and blessing ceremony of the land was held on Thursday where attendees were able to scatter more Blackland Prairie seeds across the roundabout.

The “pocket prairie” was planted by five rising seniors at Cistercian Preparatory School in Irving under the guidance of David Spence, founder of GoodSpace, an Oak Cliff development company.

The 17-year-olds found out about the project through their English teacher, who is Spence’s nephew. They spent the days following their finals cleaning, planning, and planting over 1,500 bulbs, often waking up at dawn to do the work. The students dubbed the roundabout “TyPo Prairie,” shortening and combining the names Tyler and Polk.

One of them, Henry Kath, said that it was a tough job but he felt proud to be a part of the project.

“By the third day, honestly, there was a euphoric sense,” he said. “I really felt happy. I felt proud and glad to be working.”

Blackland prairie plants
Blackland prairie plants sprout up from the traffic circle at the confluence of Tyler and Polk Streets Thursday, June 16, 2022 in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas. Five rising seniors from Cistercian Preparatory School teamed up with Oak Cliff community organizers to transplant over 1500 blackland prairie plants from Harry S. Moss Park to beautify the 2-week-old traffic circle. (Jeffrey McWhorter / Special Contributor)

The bulbs were from Harry Moss Park where Texas Discovery Gardens has restored several acres as Blackland Prairie. The goal was to bring in maintenance-free plants that demonstrate what Texas used to look like.

While the prairie plants are withered in the Texas heat now, they are expected to be flourishing by next spring.

The boys are all from the Dallas-area and were eager to see the natural beauty of Texas in their own city.

“If you drive around Dallas, it just seems so concrete-full,” said Carter Soderberg, another student. “It seems like we’ve taken away such beautiful, natural, Texas land.”

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