|McCommas Bluff post construction October 2012|
That vista, the relatively unchanged sight that man has viewed for thousands of years was forever altered in 2012.
|One of these cliffs is not like the others|
You can read the title of this post a couple different ways. The bluffs are finished. I was fortunate to see the bluffs in their natural state before a Dallas Water Utilities Project created a permanent scar on one of the hidden gems of Dallas County. What happened here should serve as a lesson. A lesson to never repeat such an unfortunate project.
|McCommas Bluff July 2011 a month before construction started|
McCommas Bluff is the only limestone bluff on the Trinity River. There are bluffs made of clay, sand and mud along the river but this one is the only limestone outcropping along the longest river wholly contained in the State of Texas. Registered as a Texas State Historic Landmark, the site was formally made a 111 acre Dallas County nature preserve in 1985. Part of the Dallas County Open Space Program it is a part of two dozen nature preserves in the county and open to the public.
Getting there: 1200 Riverwood Road Dallas Texas
Alternate address for secondary entrance: 7225 Fairport Road Dallas, Texas
|The Harry J Emmins commanded by Captain JJ Gray with barges Epps Knight and Charles Lane in tow at City of Dallas Riverfront Wharf, Trinity River, Downtown Dallas, June 1906|
|1893 McCommas Bluff Lock Design|
|1894 visitors to McCommas Bluff standing along dam crib work|
|1893 Dam crib work July 2011|
The construction project overseen by Dallas Water Utilities began in August of 2011. The purpose was to protect a 72 inch water main that serves as a freshwater supply serving South Dallas, Cedar Hill and Duncanville. The original line was unfortunately built right down or within 100 yards of the Trinity River Channel making it prone to potential erosion issues. In order to protect the line, the Bluffs were to be destroyed, wholesale.
|One Juniper Left Standing, which has since been cut down|
Gone first were the trees. All the trees were chopped down save one, a large juniper tree seen in the center of the photograph at left. Despite being worked around for a year, it is now absent from the finished project. I assume removed like all the rest. I went down to the site and photographed the rings of some trees that were chopped down in August of 2011. Along the bluffs were ash, post oak and bur oak. Some of these trees, based on their rings were at least 75 years old, some much older.
food for thought in future projects that could have saved at least one tree, one blade of grass, something.
|Construction site Spring 2011|
To the left you can see one of the exposed utility lines. This is not the larger 72 inch water line. The 72 inch pipe I assume is buried much deeper underground. The exposed pipe in the photo is almost made out of what appears to be cast iron and might have been wrapped at one time with an insulation material which has long since weathered away. This old pipe was always hard to photograph around since it stuck out so prominently from the cliffs. I have wondered why they left this old pipe in place, buried under the new waterline project. It now forms a prominent "hump" feature in the new sarcophagus along the bluff.
|Riverwood Road residents standing in one of the access roads built into the cliffs, summer 2012|
|Water project taking shape by mid-Summer 2012 with first two courses installed.|
|Looking from east bank bluff towards west bank|
|Looking downstream 1910's era Lock and Dam #1 visible in distant background|
Below is some video shot from the old ferry landing site, just upstream from the bluffs. Here you can see the size of the project. Upstream from the bluffs and around the bend is another construction site where a similar stream stabilization project utilizing coffer dams is currently proceeding.
|Upstream stabilization project on Trinity River around the bend from McCommas Bluff as viewed from Steamboat Harvey landing site|
You Break It, You Buy It
|Moonscaped bluff top at McCommas Bluff Preserve|
The native soil here is not blackland prairie clay, which was used to backfill the project. The correct soil is a sandy loam deposited eons ago on the Trinity Terrace. These alluvial sands still cover much of Southern Dallas County and provide a unique growing environment known as Post Oak Savannah. The dirt brought into McCommas Bluff does not fit this soil profile at all. If the county were to attempt rebuilding some native environment, 200 truckloads of this aggregate sand would need to be brought in to recreate the soil profile. Only then would the native species like Post Oaks, Bur Oaks, Ash thrive there. They need the moisture holding sand to live on the bluff tops.
It would seem that some sort of mitigation for tree loss is in order here. The amount of trees, foliage and plant species lost here is enormous and stretches far back into the preserve itself to the property line with the Bass family.
There are many residents along Riverwood Road enraged by what happened to the bluff top prairie. I often get an ear full from them when I stop to talk. Some are lifelong residents, lifelong fishermen of the bluff area. They cannot believe what happened.
|Poacher's Blind at McCommas Bluff Preserve October 2012|
|McCommas Bluff Preserve Whitetail Doe near Fairport Road|
With all the ongoing construction at the bluff site and across the river it seems strange someone would hunt in this spot. For the last couple months, the construction contractor had round the clock armed security, one even boasted being armed with an AR-15 Bushmaster. I could not go back into the county owned public nature preserve during this time, I was told, due to insurance issues. So who was poaching back there and for what?