- Associated Press - Sunday, January 31, 2016

DALLAS (AP) - The city of Dallas’ Landmark Commission is set to consider a first-of-its-kind historic designation that would preserve a natural spring located just south of downtown.

The Dallas Morning News (https://bit.ly/1WVc1TA ) reports that the preservation designation being voted on Monday includes rules meant to prevent major alterations to the site. The fount known as “Big Spring” is one of the few natural springs in Dallas not covered with concrete.

The Landmark Commission has signaled its support, but the Plan Commission and City Council would need to sign off before it becomes law.

The proposed rules would ban new construction, while placing restrictions on fencing, signs and trails near the spring. Any major changes would receive an added layer of scrutiny from the city and require approval from the Landmark Commission.

Big Spring presented a unique case for the city, which had procedures to preserve its built environment but not its natural one.

“It’s not quite as cut and dried as when you’re looking at a building,” said Marsha Prior, a historic preservation planner with the city. “The value of this whole site is the integration between nature and culture. … We did our best to tie those threads together when developing the preservation criteria.”

Prior says the guidelines are meant to “maintain the land as it is” while also providing context for future generations about the significance of the spring.

Billy Ray Pemberton and his wife, Zada, moved into a home near the spring in 1980, a century after Billy Ray’s grandfather purchased the land from Margaret Beeman, the daughter of John Beeman, one of Dallas’ first permanent settlers, and the wife of the city’s founder, John Neely Bryan.

Although they’ve never actually owned the land that includes Big Spring - that passed down through a different line of the family and was acquired by the city in 2004 - the couple became the site’s unofficial caretakers upon their arrival, including mowing the nearby grass and cleaning up trash.

“I’d like to see it more accessible to the public,” said Billy Ray Pemberton, 78. “I would love to see more field trips. For kids to get to experience a bit of the pioneer life.”

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Information from: The Dallas Morning News, https://www.dallasnews.com

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