Residents Pitch New Park After Traffic Study


A “pocket park,” by definition, is typically less than half an acre in size. And that’s exactly what one group of residents wants to bring to Highland Park.

Keith Van Arsdale, Christopher Westerheide, Beth Huddleston, and Belen Linton, among other East Highland Park residents, followed the town’s recent traffic study. One spot up for discussion was the intersection of Mockingbird Lane and Airline Road.

“Some residents started saying, ‘Hey, right now you have a road that divides the beautiful tennis center and the plaza as well as the pocket park that SMU has put in … what if we just made the whole area a park?’” Van Arsdale said.

And that’s how the idea for Centennial Park was born. The area in question encompasses roughly 0.8 acres that is split in two by Airline Road and backs up to SMU’s new tennis center. With the recent construction along Mockingbird, the area was already blocked off to through traffic, giving residents a sample of what it would be like.

“The neighborhood kids are now playing, it’s quieter, there’s less traffic,” Van Arsdale said.

Of course, the park cannot exist without the go-ahead from Highland Park Town Council. Pro-park residents presented their material to the council in late July, but the item has not yet been considered for a vote.

“Our town council is always pleased to receive residents’ suggestions as to how the quality of life in Highland Park can be improved,” Mayor Joel Williams said.

Williams said the item is expected to go before the council in October and town engineers are pulling further traffic data.

The residents also presented their information to SMU officials, who similarly were not able to give a public opinion.

“Essentially, it was an opportunity for us to show them what we were thinking and to bring them into the discussion,” Westerheide said.

Many SMU students cross that intersection to get to the Katy Trail and the tennis center. In that way, safety is just as much a concern for the students as it is their neighbors.

“When they brought in all those dorms, we saw a tremendous increase of pedestrian and bicycle traffic,” Linton said. “It is so, so dangerous, and all those kids are wearing headphones … anything could happen at any time.”

Park supporters launched a website,, and began distributing yard signs in late July.

4 thoughts on “Residents Pitch New Park After Traffic Study

  • September 16, 2015 at 10:20 am

    Let’s be honest. This is not a park. This is a traffic control device. And, while it may reduce traffic for the 3100 blocks of various streets south of Mockingbird, it is only going to force that traffic onto Sewanee and Abbott and into the 3200 and 3300 blocks. I also hope HPISD gets involved and looks at this. What Mr. Van Arsdale proposes to do is incovenience his fellow Armstrong Elementary School families that live NE of SMU by forcing them to reroute their school commute through the SMU campus and onto Sewanee and Abbott rather than Airline. I’m sure that SMU will love the increased traffic too. Hopefully, SMU, HPISD, and his neighbors will realize that this is a bad idea SMU, HPISD, and for anyone in the 3200 and 3300 blocks.

  • September 16, 2015 at 11:42 am

    This is a silly idea. Another not-a-park park that is up against one of the most highly trafficked streets in town. @Armstrong Family is correct, pretty transparent attempt to cut traffic off on Airline for the convenience of a few to the detriment of the many.

  • September 16, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    The re-development of this area has been beautifully done. Impressive, and an honor, to have the Bush’s Library here. HP is here for, and position should be, to take care of it’s neighborhood. I have not seen all details, but if it helps stop some of the through traffic, then go for it. Just make sure you have free cash flow to do it, and not stick your hands in the taxpayers pocket to fund the project

    I for one, am sick of the folks who believe they can disobey our traffic laws (i.e, speeding as if HP is the Texas Motor Speedway). Go somewhere else, and drive like fools. And that goes for some who live here and drive like an entitled fool.

    Joel, since you welcome the residents thought(s), I’m not sure what you and the councils agenda is as to our taking care of our town. For one, enforce our traffic laws. And if it really is your priority to protect our town from nincompoops driving, then please stop the outsourcing of the town’s school crossing guards whom (as I have witnessed so many times) seem not sure what their duties are. Leaving corner(s) early, not assisting folks, etc. is not any value as to what you signed off for. it’s cheap, and reckless to the town’s children and on your part.


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