A cruise down Scenic Drive in Riverside, just northeast of downtown Fort Worth, is a lesson in failed government. The road itself is actually part of Riverside Park along the Trinity River, its right of way conveyed to the city in the early 20th century by Tarrant County. The drive is still scenic, but increased traffic is also making it dangerous. Even beyond that, however, we are facing great harm to, and maybe even the destruction of, the park.
Because of incompetent planning, traffic on Scenic Drive now exceeds any reasonable level for such a small road and certainly for a park road. Hundreds of vehicles each day use Scenic in order to avoid a section of constantly congested I-35. These vehicles include trucks of all sizes whose drivers violate the no-truck signs with little fear of enforcement by the police. The trucks tear up the road and increase the danger, especially for residents using the park road to access the river trails.
Faced with this gridlock, our elected officials seem shocked, shocked that “suddenly” I-35 is carrying many more vehicles per day than it was designed for. What massive institutional coma have the politicians been in all this time? The city was the main force in pushing the development of the “Alliance Corridor” and most of northern Tarrant County for the last 20 years, with the state as a willing partner. They thought all this wouldn’t increase traffic on I-35?
But now the state says that the money for expansion of I-35 in Fort Worth was spent someplace else (Dallas?) because that is what the local politicians said to do. The local politicians deny it. In the meantime Scenic Drive has become a mini-freeway.
If only that were Riverside Park’s sole problem. Unfortunately, another example of political arrogance will likely lead to the park’s destruction and irrevocably affect Oakhurst and other neighborhoods in the area.
It seems that our local governmental officials have conspired with private interests to spend massive amounts of tax dollars to create what they call the Trinity River Vision project in the floodplain north of downtown. They sold it to the federal government and the taxpayers as a flood-control project. They pitched it to the developers, who stand to make millions of dollars, as the greatest economic opportunity since the Industrial Revolution. We will all die in dark and raging flood waters, we are told, and the lifeless bodies of women and children, the aged and disabled, will be washed down to the Gulf of Mexico to be eaten by sharks and crabs if we don’t pay big taxes and support Trinity Vision. But if we do go along with them on this deal and keep our mouths shut, then little guys and big guys alike will prosper, and we’ll all live happily ever after.
Anyone who believes that needs medical attention. Consider that any needed flood control would cost less than $15 million, but Trinity Vision’s cost will likely exceed $300 million. If you still don’t think that this is about floods of money as opposed to floods of water, then ask the people of Riverside about the politicians, contractors, engineers, city department heads, developers, and assorted financial interests who attended the three neighborhood meetings to explain their plan to destroy Riverside Park and to persuade residents to go along.
What is planned for the park is as ugly and dangerous as the politics behind it. The city wants to dig a giant hole where Riverside Park is now and call the bottom of that pit a new park. It will be a kind of semi-aquatic park since the floor of that hole will flood three or four times each year during heavy rains. The flooding will saturate the ground with whatever pollutants the water carries, such as oil, metals, and poisons. (There’s a reason we’re told not to eat fish from the river.) If you want to see what I am talking about, go look at the old auto pound site on Northside Drive — it’s now another such hole.
The real story is that the big Riverside Park hole and the others like it planned for the East Side are necessary for Trinity Vision. The politicians and developers intend to take out the existing flood-control levees just north of downtown and replace that flood-control capacity with these holes.
The hole that will destroy Riverside Park and other parkland on the East Side was originally supposed to be located near Rivercrest Country Club on the West Side, but a few adjoining landowners said that the heavens would fall and that they would sue if the river bank was excavated along their shoreline. So guess who got the shaft instead?
Calling the open pit a new park is an attempt to avoid calling this what it is: illegal destruction of a park for economic development.
In sum, we are under attack, and the enemy is our own arrogant politicians and their legions of bureaucrats. They have lost any sense of fiduciary responsibility to those they represent. Digging up Riverside Park is not good government. It is selling out one part of the community for the financial gain of another part, and it needs to be opposed.
We should make a stand for the integrity of our neighborhoods and resist those public officials who breach their duty. The planned destruction of Riverside Park is such a breach, and it is being done with open contempt for all of us.
Robert Gieb is a Fort Worth attorney and an Oakhurst resident.