A prized parcel of historical wetlands in North Arlington that has been family-owned for a century recently changed hands.
The property is said to be the site of Bird’s Fort, the first attempted Anglo-American settlement in the region. Formerly owned by the Armentrout family, the land now belongs to Viridian, a high-end real estate development company.
Howard Porteus, Viridian’s development manager, said that while the company has no plans to build homes on the site, an interactive facility to honor the history of Bird’s Fort is on the horizon.
Viridian developer Robert Kembel told the Weekly (“Jurassic Park,” Oct 7, 2015) about his vision to honor the area’s history when the property was not yet for sale.
“We believe [the Armentrout family] sold it to us with a little bit of trust involved,” Porteus said. ”And we plan to honor that. We just acquired the property a month ago. We haven’t finalized any kind of plans.”
Porteus said he believes whatever is constructed there will also honor Bird’s Fort Treaty, a document signed by 10 different Native American tribes in 1843 and then in 1844 by Sam Houston, an adopted Cherokee and the president of the Republic of Texas.
“It was a transaction that changed the course of North Texas,” Porteus said. “Anything short of honoring everybody involved would be disrespectful.”
In addition to the peace treaty, John Neely Bryan reportedly left Bird’s Fort to lay roots in what would later become Dallas. Today, the revered space surrounding the former fort is like a nature preserve. But Porteus said the area is not 100 percent natural. The terrain, which was favorable for trespassing off-roaders, is mostly wetlands covered with plants and wildlife, he said. There are also some flat areas where oil and gas drilling have taken place. And in the past, gravel has also been mined there.
“Both of those things have been done on the property,” he said. “So it’s a little scarred.”
Still, it’s a place where “people can get closer to nature,” he said, mentioning the property’s two lakes: an “ox-bow” lake where dinosaur bones have been discovered as well as a lake formed due to the industry of beavers.
Porteus said his company will look for funding for educational and historical purposes. He also said the future plans will fit into the scheme of things at Viridian, designated as a Certified Gold Signature Sanctuary through Audubon International, a nonprofit that specializes in environmental educational and sustainable resource management.
“This just adds another 100 acres into the mix,” he said. “It’s really a neat piece of property. The little lakes have fish in them, and the birds love it there.”