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  1. The Elevation of Tex-Mex
    Mico Rodriguez
  2. The Bounty of the Barnett Shale
    Kelcy Warren
  3. The Entrepreneurial Woman
    Tomima Edmark
  4. The Growth of the Vietnamese Community
    Jennifer Nguyen
  5. The Founding of Uptown
    Phil Cobb
  6. The Changing Face of Politics
    Craig Watkins
  7. The Brain Gain
    Dr. Hao Zhu
  8. The Four Sport Town
    Mike Modano
  9. The Underground Culture
    Katherine Owens
  10. The Catholic Migration
    Father Ivan Asencio
  11. The Organized South Asian Community
    John Hammond
  12. The Next Way to Develop
    Jeff Blackard
  13. The Allure of the Silicon Prairie
    Anousheh Ansari
  14. The lighting of Reunion Tower
    George Schrader
  15. The New Old Tradition
    Jennifer Moreno
  16. The Test Kitchen
    Mariel Street
  17. The Art Magnet
    Kevin Moriarty
  18. The Glamorous Return of Dallas Shopping
    Brian Bolke
  19. The Strengthening of the Gay Community
    Jack Evans and George Harris
  20. The Resurgence of Downtown Dallas
    Art Ortiz
  21. The Megachurch Boom
    Ed Young
  22. The Fundraisers
    Lynn McBee
  23. The Refuge
    Pedro Amaya
  24. The Reason Dallas Took Off
    Ron Barzyk
  25. The Girl Who Stayed Home
    Erykah Badu
  26. The Preservation of Our Historic Buildings
    Virginia McAlester
  27. The Thriving Ethiopian Community
    Birhan Mekonnen
  28. The New Dallas ISD
    Jessica Leija
  29. The Rebirth of the Trinity River
    Peter Payton
  30. The Trains Start Running
    Ladrika Davis Gross
  31. The Architect of an Art Scene
    Stephen Lapthisophon
  32. The Calculator That Changed the World
    Vonnie Howard
  33. The Rise and Fall and Rise of Deep Ellum
    Frank Campagna
  34. The Big Move
    Kendra Norwood
  35. The Expanding Empire in Fort worth
    Scott Hernandez
  36. The Family Recipe
    Chuy Cruz
  37. The Transformation of Oak Cliff
    David Spence
  38. The Now-Legal Immigrant
    Jesus Castillo Carrizales
  39. The City of Philanthropists
    Lyda Hill
  40. The Transplants
    Tara Vornkahl
00 The Rebirth of the Trinity River Thursday, May 22, at 11:49am in the Trinity River

Peter Payton

We’d had enough of the river by 1908, when the worst flood in the city’s history killed 11 people, sent 4,000 scurrying for higher ground, and left livestock stuck in treetops. So we straightened its meanders, moved it a half-mile west, and contained it between levees. Writing in the New York Herald-Tribune, George Gray came to town in 1931 to see for himself what we’d done. His dispatch, which ran concurrently in the Dallas Morning News, was headlined “Conquering Nature for Dallas’ Growth.” Gray observed, “[T]hese Texans have a way of planning big, impossible projects and then, somehow, bringing them to realization.” 

The only problem: we didn’t really know what we were doing. Rivers meander for a reason. It’s one of the ways they clean and oxygenate themselves. Over the decades, we turned our back to the river, paving its watershed with concrete, funneling ever more of our waste into it. 

Today, slowly, that is changing. The Trinity River Corridor Project calls for restoring the river to a more natural state. The Trinity Trust works to fulfill its motto, “reclaiming our river.” And Peter Payton, executive director of the nonprofit Groundwork Dallas, is winning the hearts and minds of young people as he enlists their help in cleaning up the place and brings the river into their classrooms.

Groundwork, part of a national coalition, concentrated on cutting trails through the Great Trinity Forest when Payton joined the group nearly five years ago. But after pulling 10,000 tires out of the flood plain on a single day and then seeing how quickly the trash piled up after the next rain, Payton headed west and refocused Groundwork’s efforts on cleaning the water in the Elm Fork, before it flows past downtown.  

“The Trinity River Corridor Project office, all these big parks and things they want to build, it’s for nothing if there’s not water that’s usable,” he says. “I’m a fat man in Texas. I like having clean water to float in.”