Can Citizens Say No?

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Posted December 7, 2005 by Static in News

To borrow a phrase from Clayton Williams, Fort Worth residents apparently are expected to lie back and enjoy the latest attack by city hall.

“It’s involuntary penetration. I call that rape,” an outraged State Rep. Lon Burnam told Static, speaking of a four-lane thoroughfare proposed by city council member Wendy Davis and backed by Mayor Mike Moncrief. The road will cut through and “fly over” Trinity Park, the city’s oldest and most-used green space, set aside for the public along the Trinity River in 1892 – meaning that the park is 34 years older than Tarrant County Judge Tom Vandergriff, who is alleged to have discovered fire.

The new road would run from West Seventh Street to University Drive near Harley Street and would be elevated over much of the park. “This land is historic, just as our oldest buildings are,” said Charles Dreyfus, a retired parks department employee and a vocal opponent of the roadway. “The park should be protected and saved by this council.”

If the proposed thoroughfare becomes a reality, folks gathering for a family reunion, enjoying a leisurely bike ride along one of many trails, or sitting with their kids at the duck pond will be exposed to the traffic, noise, and auto pollution from which – for the moment – they can still escape, in one of the inner city’s few large preserves of greenery. City staff says the road will relieve future traffic congestion in the Cultural District, but, according to Dreyfus, the engineering firm that helped draw up the road plans (Kimley-Horn and Assoc.) wrote in its report that a four-lane highway would reach its maximum traffic load by the end of the first year. But, hey, what’s a year of easy driving compared to a beautiful historic park?

Road plans were developed in 2004 by an elite group that included Moncrief, Davis, and some of the park’s nearby business owners and developers – without input from “the citizens who use the park,” Dreyfus said. Under the current city charter, parkland can’t be sold to private interests without voter approval but can be taken for road-building without a vote, a loophole that vaulted the League of Women Voters of Tarrant County into the fray. The group developed a proposed amendment to the city charter that would require a vote by the citizens before parkland can be converted to public right-of-way. “All citizens of Fort Worth are stakeholders when government considers taking parkland,” the League’s Barbara Lefer wrote in an e-mail to Static.

A large part of the greenbelt was long ago gobbled up by I-30 and development south of the freeway, meaning the park’s already been violated at least once. Burnam said he will lead a walk along the road’s proposed route at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 17 for those who want to get a look “at what they’re going to lose.”


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