Plans are in the works to give Dallas a public park that’s 11 times larger than New York’s Central Park. The interesting factor: The site of the park is in the floodplain along the Trinity River. But instead of trying to ignore the flooding risk, the design of the park is incorporating it.

The Harold Simmons Park—named for the late Dallas philanthropist Harold Simmons, whose widow donated $50 million to fund the first phase of the park—will include 285 acres of the Trinity River floodplain. The design of the park will use flood management techniques to utilize overflow from the river in a beneficial manner.

During the wet season, low-lying parts of the park will absorb and redirect flood waters through the use of bioswales. In the drier months, visitors will get a view of the river bottom and the ecology of the Trinity River. The landscape of the park will change throughout the year and will incorporate native flora. A “nature district” will provide a unique greenspace in Dallas. 

Existing levees from Downtown Dallas will allow the creation of five smaller elevated parks. These parks will offer recreation opportunities including concert pavilions, sports fields, and playgrounds. The elevated parks will be built above the 100-year flood level, which should protect the facilities from most flood risks.

The Trinity River spans 710 miles in north Texas and runs through the heart of the Dallas-Fort Worth region. Fort Worth developed recreational areas along the river, which are currently in use even though the park project is not yet complete.

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) is the Brooklyn landscape architecture firm working on the project. The same firm also completed the 15-acre park on the grounds of the George W. Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University.

The project has a target completion date of 2021.