War over the Wall Divides Neighbors on Forest Lane

The psychedelic mural painted along Forest Lane has seen its share of controversy over the years, from an inflammatory SpongeBob SquarePants depiction, to a car crash, a possible lawsuit, and even police intervention.

In July 2015, a pickup truck jumped the median and crashed into the wall, leaving a gaping hole about 50 feet wide, right behind the residence of Danny Scott — one of the mural’s most vocal opponents.

Scott took the wreckage as an opportunity, and launched efforts this past month to rebuild the wall using a concrete mold resembling the wall’s original brick and mortar. But it took him a year to do it.

In the meantime, Brent Herling, along with other residents fed up with seeing the wall in ruins, built a temporary wooden fence to cover the hole and painted over it to match the mural. According to Herling, Scott was not impressed.

Herling is the creative mastermind behind Helping to Paint the Wall on Forest Lane … not!!, a volunteer group with more than 400 members on Facebook.

Tensions escalated on May 29 when Herling was confronted at the wall by a neighbor who said that Scott was planning on fixing the wall and that he shouldn’t be there. According to Herling, a man who was videotaping the interaction stuck his camera in his face. Another pushed Herling and shouted, “Assault!”

Police who responded to the scene allowed Herling to keep painting after he showed a 1967 owner’s certificate and dedication stating that the land the wall stands on was given to the county, so it didn’t actually belong to Scott.

“It was just a display of ridiculous hatred. It basically started a war,” said Herling, who was with his daughter during the incident. “How can you fault someone for trying to do something for the neighborhood, for free.”

The project isn’t exactly free. According to Herling, he has shuffled out almost $1,000 dollars towards the project. Others have donated more than $400 and Herling says Lowe’s often sells him paint for a quarter of the cost, sometimes for free.

Scott, who according to Herling wants the wall painted beige with bushes growing along it, has gone as far as to call the mural a “hideous eyesore” on Next Door, a social networking site for homeowners. Herling also says Scott, who is an admin for the Glen Meadows Estates page, has recently been deleting “tons” of comments on the site.

Herling argues a colorful mural is preferable to graffiti. “If the wall is beige, it will be tagged. Also, the wall is right up against concrete, so the bushes [Scott wants] would have to be along the street,” Herling said. “I’m the one who’s been removing all the graffiti on Forest Lane for the past two decades.”

Since the incident, Herling says he has received lawsuit threats from Scott for trespassing on his property and allegedly making a discriminatory remark at the incident in May.

Scott did not respond to repeated attempts to contact him for comment.

Dallas City Councilmember Jennifer Staubach Gates says that if someone doesn’t want the section of wall on their property painted, or want it painted beige, that is their right.

She also noted that a way to differentiate between paint and graffiti has not actually been specified.

“The painting of the wall is kind of the will of the neighborhood. That’s how we’ve seen it. The responsibility of the maintenance of the wall itself is the property owner’s responsibility,” Gates said.

Regardless, Herling, who attended W.T. White High School when the wall was painted by students there, still plans to breathe life into the wall and welcomes any volunteers.

He began an auction for the wooden fence on eBay July 5. It sold for $580 a week later, on July 12.

“A lot of the artists that originally did [the mural] have come out to help. There is a love people have for bringing back what was theirs and a spirit of community among one another,” he said. 

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