When the city broke ground on an 80-acre community park in March, outlining plans for a nature center, outdoor classrooms and other amenities, not everyone embraced the project.Some residents of the upscale Arbors of Creekwood subdivision, which adjoins the south side of the future park on Matlock Road, spoke out last week about a planned bridge over Walnut Creek that they feared would funnel strangers into their own private pond and greenbelt.“We like the park,” said Kelli Savering, resident of a gated community within the Arbors, the Estates of Creekwood. “It’s more about the liability. If someone gets hurt in that lake, the parks department doesn’t own that lake. We do.”But the worries were diffused almost as quickly as they arose. At a private meeting Thursday arranged by Mayor David Cook at City Hall, he, city parks officials and a half dozen residents discussed building a fence to buffer the pond and neighborhood from the public park.The next step is for the residents to draw up a proposal for the fence and work with city officials to establish an easement, address drainage issues – the fence would be in a flood plain – and protect trees, Cook said. The proposal then would go before the Park Facilities Development Corp. board for consideration and final action.“I told them I’m supportive of their request and I want to attempt to address their concerns, ” Cook said. “But I do think the expense should be borne by the homeowners or the homeowners association.”The discussion also cleared up a misconception. Many of the residents mistakenly believed that their neighborhood owned the property between their pond and the south bank of Walnut Creek. It’s city property, which includes a concrete trail built by the subdivision’s developer in the mid-1990s and deeded to the city.The trail – a loop that extends from the Estates and runs alongside a section of Walnut Creek – has a public access point but has been used mostly by residents.“We were surprised to find out the city owns it,” said Brad Bradford, an Estates resident for 17 years. “We were led to believe back then that the homeowners association owned it.”The neighborhood does own the pond, which has no safety barriers to keep trespassers out. Residents who met with Cook said they believe it’s fair that their neighborhood foot the bill, Savering said.Cook further eased concerns by pointing out that the park plans don’t include any picnic pads, a pavilion or other amenities that would draw park-goers into the greenbelt separating the Estates from the park.The bridge is scheduled to be part of the $2.5 million construction of phase one of the new park, which has not received an official name yet but is often referred to as Williams Park, after the family that sold the property to the city. The bridge will have a wooden deck and metal rails and span 100 feet across the creek, costing $142,000, said city park planner Hillary Bueker.The phase also includes picnic tables, benches and other neighborhood park features near the Matlock Road entrance, as well as two observation decks and trails to the back, or east, side of the property. It is expected to open in January.The $3 million second phase will extend the Walnut Creek Linear Park and its 12-foot-wide concrete trail from Matlock Road all the way to Joe Pool Lake. The trail will run along the south side of the creek and replace the smaller existing trail built by the subdivision developer. That phase is expected to open in 2015, officials said.The final phase includes a nature education center, an outdoor classroom and parking, at a cost of about $7 million. It is projected to open in 2017.
Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641 Twitter: @Kaddmann