Boisterous character Leslie Knope from the hit TV series Parks and Recreation said, “there’s no such thing as small parks, only small ideas,” and it’s that same ambitious spirit that transformed one Dallas pocket park into a celebrated neighborhood park.
James W. Aston Park was once a .4-acre stand-alone oak grove located between Live Oak Street, Harwood Street, and Pacific Avenue that was established in 1983 in what’s now known as Dallas’ City Center District. The triangular plot of land was named for James W. Aston, a well-known Dallas figure who contributed greatly to the growth of the city through his civic-minded leadership.
After graduating from Texas A&M University, Aston became the youngest city manager of Dallas before he went on to serve in the Army Air Corps during WWII, decorated with a Distinguished Service Medal and Legion of Merit. Following the war, he climbed the ranks of Republic National Bank of Dallas, eventually becoming CEO and chairman of the board. Among many prestigious titles and appointments, his role in the building of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and University of Texas Southwest Medical Center are some of his most noteworthy accomplishments. Aston is commemorated by the James W. Aston Ambulatory Care Center at the UT Southwestern campus as well as through the dedication of Aston Park.
While Aston Park may have been only a small tree-lined block, it served as a place where memories were made. In fact, one of Mr. Aston’s five grandchildren, James Aston III, proposed to his wife under those oaks. Much like its namesake, the tiny park was destined to contribute so much more to the city.
In October 2019, Aston Park was reintroduced as the eastern segment of a 3.74-acre neighborhood treasure, Pacific Plaza. The city park boasts a gorgeous pavilion, 176 trees, plentiful walking paths, a PLAY area with swings and seesaws and more. Thanks in part to a $1 million donation from Hoblitzelle Foundation, Downtown Dallas Parks Conservancy and the Dallas Park & Recreation Department were able to create an oasis in the heart of the city. Nestled on North Harwood Street and Pacific Avenue, the 23 mature live oaks still stand, providing a shady respite under the new moniker, Aston Grove.
Aston Grove and Pacific Plaza not only add much-needed green space to Dallas’ robust city core, they provide a gathering place for the community to thrive and continue to make unforgettable memories.