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, Trinity River Audubon Center education wing. photo by Steve Foxall n. the toll road will be completed on time and at no additional cost to taxpayers, that it’s become increasingly difficult for them to extricate themselves from it:’ she says. “There’s a fear among politicians and upper-level city staff that if they back off now, everything will be lost” BREAKING TRAIL We’re approaching the end of our float, the Loop 12 boat ramp, when we spot two shadowy figures standing beneath the bridge. They’re wearing quilted sports jackets and flat-billed baseball hats and drinking Coronas. We navigate a final rapid and drag the canoe up a concrete incline. The men smile and tilt their beer bottles. “Where’d y’all come from?” they ask. “See any fish? Lotta gar in there.” They want to know what’s upstream. An older man appears from the margins. “Hey, a canoe trip!” he says, shaking hands with the beer drinkers before wandering off. We’re loading the canoe onto the truck when a middle-aged couple shows up, circles the parking lot, then climbs out and begins halfheartedly picking up trash, glancing at us frequently. The older man is idling on the side of the road as we pull out. There’s no telling how many drug deals we just interrupted. 12 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MAY 29, 2009 Had we paddled a bit farther, we could’ve exited the river at the Trinity River Audubon Center, the Trinity project’s interpretive cornerstone. More than io,000 people visited the center during its grand opening last fall. Those who managed to get in marveled at the building’s award-winning, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified architecture, including a rooftop garden and angled windows that deflect sunlight and minimize bird impacts. They wandered the 120 acres of open space and four-plus miles of handicap-accessible trails with Audubon guides describing the migratory birds circling above. At the push of a button, a scale model of the Trinity River floodplain demonstrated the effects of loo-year and 5oo-year floods. “For the citizens of Dallas, the grand opening here was a symbolic moment for the Trinity River project:’ the Audubon Center’s director Chris Culack tells me when I visit on a blustery December day. “The feeling was, ‘Okay, I can believe in it now..” Aside from the steady stream of school buses utilizing the educational facilities, Culack admits he doesn’t get many visitors from surrounding neighborhoodsthough anyone living in the same zip code gets free entry. “There’s not a lot being built down here in South Dallas:’ Culack says. “Hopefully the Audubon Center can provide an impetus for more quality developments.”