A new plan for Fort Worth’s largest park includes nearly $140 million in improvements.
The draft master plan would expand the park across Beach Street, improve road access and add a community event space along with new sports fields and trails. Kimley-Horn and Associates produced the plans and project leader John Fielder presented it at a recent parks and recreation advisory board meeting.
The estimated price tag is $140 million. However, the parks and recreation department has just under $8 million in 2022 bond money to spend on the park. After that money is spent, it will be up to city management and voters to fund more improvements through bond elections, which the city typically holds every four years.
“I think a lot of us were surprised by the total estimated cost, and we know that’s not going to happen on just one bond program but probably multiple bond programs. I think it’s really important for the city to work toward that goal,” said Rick Herring, a neighborhood association leader and former City Council candidate.
Fielder told board members he suggests starting with low-demolition, high-impact improvements. Construction on the first round could begin by next year, Fielder said.
One option for the first project is establishing parkland west of Beach Street that would include new soccer fields, bathrooms and an amphitheater in the Oxbow area. The far northeast corner of the park would also be a good place to start work, Fielder said. A new playground, improved park entrance and new trails are all possible there.
The draft plan builds upon several existing amenities in the park. It expands Fort Woof Dog Park and Gateway’s disc golf course and adds more mountain biking trails. The plan also features new amenities, including a viewing platform at the highest elevation in the park, an amphitheater, an equestrian center, a spray ground and even an alpine roller coaster.
“I think it’s a wonderful destination for the east side and for Fort Worth,” Michael Moore, a member of the parks advisory board, said at the park board meeting.
City leaders describe Gateway as the region’s Central Park. It sits on Fort Worth’s east side between Interstate 30 and State Highway 121, which both connect the city to the rest of the region.
Despite its size and importance, the park hasn’t changed much over the decades, east side resident Dan Haase said.
“This park has lurched forward for nearly 50 years with no one consistently advocating for its future,” Haase said. “Gateway Park should not be seen as just one of [the city’s] 297 parks when it comes to funding, manpower and importance within the park system.”
Haase hopes the city will create an annual budget for upkeep and improvements at Gateway Park and make access easier by adding it to bus routes and creating signage on surrounding roads pointing visitors to the park.
The new master plan, the city’s first since 2009, will help guide Fort Worth’s investment in the park for the next 10 years. This isn’t the first time the city has produced an ambitious plan for Gateway Park. The previous plan, which was long depicted on a large sign outside of Fort Woof Dog Park, went mostly unfulfilled, prompting an updated master plan.
However, this plan could benefit from additional investments in and around the park. The park is part of the U.S .Army Corps of Engineers Central City flood control project, and land owners nearby are seeking a new plan for transformative development that complements the green space.
On Feb. 28, the City Council approved a $475,000 contract with Kimley-Horn for the design and development of a master plan for Gateway Park. The Fort Worth City Council will consider adopting the new master plan in early 2024.
“Ideally, if you’ve got the master plan in place, you got enough support from the park board and residents and get people out voting, you can get some of these improvements done a lot faster,” Fielder said. “It is long range.”
The city will present the draft plan to community members Nov. 9 and 13. The Nov. 9 meeting is focused on groups who routinely use the park and the Nov. 13 meeting, at the Victory Forest Community Center, is open to the general public.
After receiving input at those public meetings, Kimley-Horn will present its final master plan to the park board for approval before it goes to the City Council.
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com 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.