A Green Future for Valley Ranch?

February 8, 2014

We got up this morning with merely grudging acceptance of the breakfast we planned on attending – an introduction to the Valley Ranch home owners association and committees, for new home owners. We left the meeting feeling excited and optimistic. We already knew that it was a good, "master planned," neighborhood. Now we feel more confident that it has a bright future as well, one that includes serious water conservation measures, ecological aesthetics, and social opportunities.

Having moved into the neighborhood this past fall, we've settled in, talked to a few people, and taken a few nice walks. The eastern boundary of Valley Ranch is the Elm Fork of the Trinity River, which flows into the West Fork just west of downtown Dallas. Historically this was part of the 100 year flood plain, but we are protected by a levy and an active flood control district. The flood prevention measures include a series of canals throughout the 3-4 square mile area. The canals offer a nice recreational opportunity, with several miles of paved trail. We also noticed that they are planted with a few trees and a lot of bermuda grass. Could be worse, but it could also be much, much better than this. Thus we were particularly excited to learn about the Water Conservation Committee's on-going planning efforts, which look to transform the canals (and hopefully the street landscapes) into something more climate-appropriate and attractive.

Although we did not directly meet many of our new neighbors at breakfast, it was gratifying to hear several them are concerned about appropriate tree plantings, rain barrels, and butterfly gardens. In addition to the Water Conservation Committee, we learned a bit about the Go Green Committee. This one is more about individual and community recycling, gardening, etc., as opposed to the landscape focus of the Water Conservation Committee. It will be interesting to see how the two work together; the Go Green Committee likely has a stronger reach into individual homes, and can provide a great service in communicating about the bigger picture issues as well. Thus we hope to participate in both, or possibility split up between the two.

Moving beyond the efforts at recreating this neighborhood as a (more) sustainable one, there is an active desire to foster a sense of community here as well. Admittedly that is still a bit vague, but with tools like NextDoor.com and community-planned social events, hopefully over time we'll have natural opportunities to get together with our neighbors and start having meaningful one-on-one conversations about community life and well-being. Of course we need to find ways to promote this individually, on our block, rather than waiting for the HOA to sponsor events catered to the broader cross section of 30,000 or so residents. Hopefully as it warms up again, and our personal schedules calm down, we'll kick ourselves into gear and out of the comfort zone of being entirely holed up inside.

There is a lot going on in Valley Ranch, and it has a real opportunity for being a role model in invigorating and sustaining an established neighborhood.

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