Officials say trees near garden were removed due to disease; Dallas Tavern Guild will select new location for its ‘Living Tribute’ to Alan Ross


BATTLE MONUMENT | The AIDS Memorial in Lee Park, above and below, is dated 1992 but was not installed until 1995 due to opposition from the city of Dallas. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

Trees near an AIDS Memorial in Lee Park were cut down last week to make way for a new formal garden, but officials say the memorial will be moved to a new location in the park.

Ken McKinsey, manager of facilities and operations for the Lee Park and Arlington Hall Conservancy, which runs the park, said removing the trees was unrelated to the new garden, which is one of several planned upgrades to the park. The old trees were diseased and had to come down but will be replaced over the next few months.

McKinsey said two possible locations for the memorial garden have been proposed. Michael Doughman, executive director of the Dallas Tavern Guild, an association of gay bars, is deciding which of the two sites should be home to the memorial.

Doughman said the tree planted as a memorial to Dallas LGBT icon Alan Ross was cut down several years ago because it was also diseased. Doughman said the evergreen was a bad choice for this area.

AIDSmemorialThe new location he’ll be looking at for the memorial — and a new tree to honor Ross — is up the hill in a newer area of the park. He said the sites are near Lemmon Avenue, across the bridge.

Doughman said he’ll be meeting with the park’s arborist and McKinsey in early February and expected the tree and new memorial to be dedicated this spring, hopefully in April.

Gay Donnell, Lee Park conservancy president and CEO, agreed that the two sites suggested were appropriate locations for the memorial but was happy to offer Doughman any location in the park.

A plaque will be moved to the new site and the community will be invited to a dedication.

“We’ll hold a formal ceremony and invite some of the people who were involved in the original memorial,” Doughman said.

Creating the AIDS Memorial took years of lobbying, and not until two openly gay members sat on the City Council was it approved — despite the cost being paid for by the LGBT community, not the city.

In December 1989, Ross spearheaded a plan to build the AIDS Memorial in Lee Park. He applied to the Dallas Park Board for approval but kept hitting obstacles.

Gay Urban Truth Squad, better known as GUTS, a group similar to ACT-UP that predated the national organization, held a demonstration in Lee Park in June 1990 to support the drive to create a memorial. By the time of the demonstration there had been 1,421 AIDS deaths in Dallas County.

Not until 1995 was the Tavern Guild allowed to move forward with the plan for the AIDS Memorial. That was after the conservancy was created by five local groups to run the park in a public-private partnership. Among the founding organizations was the Dallas Tavern Guild.

Lee Park continues to be run by the conservancy separately from the Dallas Parks Department. The Tavern Guild maintains ties with the conservancy, and Doughman sits on an advisory committee. Several major LGBT events, including the Pride Festival and Easter in the Park, are held at Lee Park every year.

The park is getting upgrades, including the formal garden, paid for by a large donation made by one of the conservancy’s board members.

Donnell referred to the new garden as a flower garden, and a fountain will be added to muffle the noise from nearby Lemmon Avenue and Turtle Creek Boulevard. A stone wall will be built with the same stone used in the nearby bridge and benches that date from the 1930s.

Donnell said there’s no direct access to the Katy Trail from Lee Park so the conservancy is raising money to build access directly into the park.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 25, 2013.