An abandoned strip of land that the federal government used as a railroad line to carry bombs during World War II is about to receive a new mission: Joining Fort Worth’s growing network of trails.

Seven miles of overgrown land running behind homes in the Bomber Heights neighborhood and crossing Interstate 30 and State Highway 183 will become the Bomber Spur trail. It will connect the Clear Fork and West Fork trails of the Trinity River and create connections between Las Vegas Trail, the Joint Reserve Base and Lockheed Martin among other nearby neighborhoods.

“It supports access to jobs, connections to schools. It’s a multi-faceted project and the connection is made easier because there is that abandoned railroad line that is, for all practical purposes, still extremely visible and impinged by other development,” said Stacey Pierce, executive director of Streams & Valleys, a non-profit group dedicated to preserving and advocating for the Trinity River. 

The proposed seven-mile Bomber Spur trail will connect Clear Fork and West Fork Trinity trails. Courtesy Streams & Valleys

Needle in a haystack

In the 1940s, the federal government used eminent domain to take the 37 tracts to create a supply chain railroad line from the existing major rail lines. That Bomber Spur railine connected the Convair Bomber Plant and the Carswell Air Force Base. Today, the plant is where Lockheed Martin is located and the base is now the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base.

After World War II ended, the railroad line was abandoned. The property reverted back to the descendants and became overgrown and forgotten — until recently. 

Before construction begins on the southern portion of the project, the team must find the owners of the 37 lots needed for the project. 

Streams & Valleys and the city of Fort Worth are working to identify descendants of property owners from the 1940s. Once the team determines the rightful owners, they hope to acquire the land — either purchasing it or getting it as a donation. 

The current owners, whose family owned the land decades ago, likely have no idea the land is theirs, Pierce said. The land is environmentally compromised and no one has paid taxes on it for decades.

Economic opportunities

The Bomber Spur trail will create pedestrian and cyclist-friendly crossings across various highways. Courtesy Streams & Valleys

The nearly $12 million project is expected to complete phase one by 2025. Advocates of the project believe the Bomber Spur trail will help revitalize the surrounding communities located between the Clear Fork and West Fork of the Trinity River. 

“We want the neighborhood to be proud of what’s there because it should increase their property values and be a great connection for them to get to other destinations that they want to go to. That’s really the spirit behind the whole thing,” Pierce said. 

Streams & Valleys, the North Central Texas Council of Governments and the city of Fort Worth have partnered for the two-phase project. The first phase is currently underway and will connect US 377/Camp Bowie Boulevard to I-30/Calmont Avenue. 

The Bomber Spur trail’s southern portion is divided into two phases. Courtesy City of Fort Worth

Construction for phase one will cost almost $4.9 million and will be funded using federal and local funding. The city will be responsible for the cost of design and engineering of that first portion. 

Phase one of the project runs along North Z Boaz Park. That portion of the trail is on city-owned land, which allows work to start on the trail while the city and project partners work on solving the ownership of the other half, said Joel McElhany, assistant director of parks and recreation for the city of Fort Worth. 

The second phase will be on hold until a portion of land is acquired, which will open federal funding for the construction of the trail. 

“Going forward, the land acquisition piece is critical. We want to make sure that we get the federal money because that allows us to do more with local money than use all of our local funds to build this trail,” Pierce said. 

The Bomber Spur trail’s five sections:

  1. Westworth Village Residential: This will include an off-street connection from SH 183 to connect with Upper West Fork at Airfield Falls. It will cross Roaring Springs and White Settlement roads. The North Central Texas Council of Governments has already secured funding for this portion. 
  2. Airfield Falls Connection: This will link Airfield Falls to Camp Carter through coordination with Westworth Village, Camp Carter and possibly the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base.
  3. Westworth Village East Commercial: This will run along SH 183/Westworth Boulevard to Altamere Drive. 
  4. Fort Worth West Commercial: This will run along SH 183/Alta Mere Drive and cross I-30. The reconstruction of the I-30 and SH 183 interchange will include the I-30 crossing as well. This is scheduled in TxDOT’s Unified Transportation Program. 
  5. Fort Worth Residential South: This will include the primary off-street trail along the former tracks of the Bomber Spur railroad. An on-street protected bike lane or off-street path parallel to the Union Pacific rail line along W. Vickery Boulevard to Southwest Boulevard is being considered.

Source: Streams & Valleys

The Bomber Spur trail is another project that could open the door for trail-oriented development in Fort Worth. The Council of Governments, the city and Streams & Valleys are exploring ways to encourage businesses and developments to build along the trail, creating a walkable area that brings in revenue — similar to transit-oriented development.

Many cities have started to explore the concept of transit-oriented development, including Fort Worth. This is where dining, shopping and businesses open along a public transportation route, like a train or bus line, prompting passengers to spend their money back into the local economy. An example of transit-oriented development is the Grapevine Main Station

“I think our friends at the COG realize that in Texas, given how our paradigm is here, that trail-oriented development may well be more successful than transit,” Pierce said. “But it may take a while before we think of our bike as an alternative mode of transportation.”

Fort Worth Report fellow Sandra Sadek may be reached at sandra.sadek@fortworthreport.org 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.

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Sandra Sadek

Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. Originally from Houston, she graduated from Texas State University where she studied journalism and international...