The rich history of Mosier Valley is indisputable.
Shortly after the Civil War, a group of formerly enslaved people established the first freedmen’s town in Texas on a tract of land near the Trinity River. At its peak in the early 20th century, the neighborhood sitting on the edge of far east Fort Worth and Euless was home to about 300 people.
Today, little of that history is visible. Industrial facilities outnumber the families who remain in the neighborhood, which lacked sewer lines, street lights, curbs or garbage collection for nearly 40 years after Fort Worth annexed it in 1960.
Lorenzo Boldware, a retiree from TXU Energy, arrived in Mosier Valley more than three decades ago, before utilities were extended to the neighborhood in the late 1990s. He and his wife, Bernadette, have watched younger property owners leave the area due to a lack of amenities, including spaces for children to play and gather.
“We stayed here when things were good, bad and in between,” Boldware said. “Everybody knew everybody, everybody was supporting everybody. That was the thing I liked about Mosier Valley: the people.”
Following the arrival of sewage and water services from Fort Worth and Euless, city officials began discussing a park and community center on the same land where a historic school building once stood. In 2014, the city acquired property to build the park with the advocacy of Councilwoman Gyna Bivens, who continues to represent east Fort Worth today.
But living in Mosier Valley means growing familiar with broken — or at least delayed — promises, said Benny Tucker, who has served as leader of the Mosier Valley Community Area Council since the early 1980s.
He and other Texans with connections to Mosier Valley, including descendants of the original settlers, are frustrated with what they see as a lack of progress on the park, which last saw construction in May 2019, according to a city fact sheet.
“Most residents of Mosier Valley have been let down so many times that it’s kind of difficult to really believe that there’s going to be some progress that may be made,” Tucker said.
Park construction could begin again in 2024
Fort Worth spent $380,000 to complete the first phase of the Mosier Valley Park master plan, which included clearing vegetation and constructing a concrete parking lot, walkways, a plaza space and furniture for the site.
Now, construction on the park’s second phase could begin within the next few years if Fort Worth’s proposed bond package is approved by voters in May.
Mosier Valley is one of eight neighborhood parks set to receive a combined total of $5.5 million in the proposed bond package. Joel McElhany, Fort Worth’s capital program manager, said funding from the 2022 bond program will last through September 2027.
Large scale projects will come first, while improvements to neighborhood parks will be scheduled for completion closer to the 2027 end date, McElhany said in an email. Construction on Mosier Valley Park is scheduled to kick off in late 2023 or the early months of 2024, he said, and the project should be completed by the end of September 2026.
So what does the bond package mean for the future of Mosier Valley’s community park? City officials anticipate that improvements will include a playground, fitness stations, activity court, pavilion, walking trails, security lighting, more benches and other site furnishings.
Bivens said the upcoming funding for Mosier Valley would not have been possible without her ongoing advocacy in City Hall. Fort Worth won’t be able to provide all of the dollars necessary to carry out the vision designed by the neighborhood’s residents, requiring the community to accept corporate sponsorships or find other ways to generate donations, she added.
“It is my desire and hope that the community will be patient and realize that while it’s true that there are native property owners in Mosier Valley, most have moved away,” Bivens said. “When you take a look at how dollars are spent, I’m proud that the park is there, and I’m proud we’ve been able to deliver that.”
Distrust of Fort Worth officials remains
Although Boldware and Tucker were pleased to hear about developments with the bond program, they were unsure if construction would be carried out on time — if at all.
“We’ve heard that before,” Boldware said. “The proof is in the pudding. You started putting the ingredients in, but you didn’t finish baking it.”
Tucker expressed frustration with what he sees as a lack of communication from city leaders, including Bivens, about the status of the park and other concerns in Mosier Valley, including pot-holed roads and stormwater issues.
“I know we’re a small, intricate part of the voters of District 5, but we are still an integral part of the voters, although we’re small in numbers,” Tucker said. “I think our city councilperson should consider some of the things that we need here as well, just like she did when she first got into office.”
Bivens, who was elected in 2013, said she remains focused on bringing more development to Mosier Valley, which was neglected for decades before she came into office. Her plans include the potential creation of an economic development corporation to represent the area, rather than a neighborhood association, to spur more financial and corporate investment in far east Fort Worth.
“That’s a discussion I would like to have, and we’ll have the staff come out again and talk about the benefits of an EDC versus a neighborhood association,” Bivens said. “It’s always had a heavy industrial presence, which is why residential development was slow to come.”
Boldware has been part of several community discussions, including meetings at St. John Missionary Baptist Church, about how to attract younger residents back to the area. He’s encouraged by a new housing complex being built nearby and other economic development that is putting Mosier Valley “back on the map.”
But he doesn’t want the roots of Mosier Valley to get lost in the process. Finishing the park will provide a gathering place for descendants and serve as a reference point for newcomers who aren’t familiar with the educators, engineers and forefathers who built the community, Boldware said.
“We need to get the history of Mosier Valley out there, and the park was going to do that,” he said. “If the people that are here now are gone, then Mosier Valley history is going to be almost wiped out. The story has not been told to the people who are coming here.”
Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by a grant from the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman Foundation. Contact her by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.