Dallas city officials have announced that Reverchon Park, in the heart of Oak Lawn, has been designated as a Lone Star Legacy Park by the Texas Recreation and Parks Society. Reverchon is one of six Texas parks to receive the designation this year from the TRAPS award program, which is now in its fifth year.

“Reverchon reflects a long and proud heritage, said Willis Winters, director of the Dallas Parks and Recreation Department. “In the midst of a busy urban setting, with rushing traffic and high-rise office buildings and residential complexes nearby, this historic park serves as an oasis for baseball games, family outings and other recreational activities and events.”

A Lone Star Legacy Park is a park that holds special prominence in the local community and in the state. To qualify for consideration, the park must have “endured the test of time and become iconic to those who have visited, played and rested on its grounds,” according to a press release from the city.

“Nominated parks must be at least 50 years old and meet at least one of these criteria: represent distinctive design and/or construction; be associated with historic events or sites; be associated with events specific to the local community/state; be home to unique natural features.

Reverchon Park is one of the oldest parks in Dallas, having opened in 1915 when the surrounding area was attracting settlers with its water source, hunting, rolling meadows and panoramic view of the burgeoning city. In the era of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, the city used the federally-funded Works Progress Administration to turn the Dallas parks system into a showcase for the city and the new Democratic coalition.

Between 1935 and 1937, Reverchon was transformed through a series of stonework projects that included the floral amphitheater called the Iris Bowl, a fountain and the bridge over Turtle Creek. Athletic fields opened in 1920 followed by a grandstand in 1924. In the late 1930s, Reverchon became the first park in the Dallas park system to have a lighted ball field.

For the city’s LGBT community, Reverchon has been both famous and infamous. Last year, the parade route ended at Maple Avenue and the festival was held there. The Lone Star Ride held its closing ceremony in the park twice. And the park was known for cruising in the 1980s and ’90s. Most of the arrests Dallas Police made for public lewdness, etc., were of married men, and during that time the park gained a reputation as being dangerous.

In 1988, Richard Bednarski and some of his teenage friends from Mesquite were cruising Oak Lawn to harass gay men. They persuaded Tommy Lee Trimble, 34, and John Lloyd Griffin, 27, to get into their car, drove them to Reverchon Park where Bednarski shot them.  Trimble died instantly. Griffin died five days later. After Bednarski’s trial, Judge Jack Hampton made headlines and enraged the LGBT community when he told a Dallas Times Herald reporter, “I put prostitutes and gays at about the same level, and I’d be hard put to give somebody life for killing a prostitute.”

Three years later, Hugh Callaway, 35, and his partner Thanh Nguyen, 29, went to Reverchon Park one evening to sit and eat hamburgers after a night dancing at a nearby gay bar on Maple Avenue. Three men assaulted them for about 20 minutes before shooting them. Nguyen died; Callaway survived but was left crippled. He identified their attackers and testified at the trial.

The Dallas Parks and Recreation Department is one of the country’s largest urban park systems, caring for almost 24,000 acres of land and water that include 379 parks, 100 trail miles, athletic fields and natural areas. Visit DP&R for more info.