Even Google doesn’t know where Eugene McCray Park is.
The six-acre park abuts the Fort Worth side of Lake Arlington, and is complete with breathtaking sunrises glistening over the lake water. But a search for the park on Google Maps nets zero results.
And despite the picture-perfect view, the park shows signs of neglect — a downed stop sign is one of the first things visitors see when they enter the park on the pot-holed and litter-lined Quail Road. The road, which dead ends, leads drivers to the park entrance, but the backdrop for the welcome sign is a row of porta potties.
Councilwoman Gyna Bivens, who represents the area, wants to change that, starting with fixing the road, adding signage, striping the parking lots to accommodate boats and holding events at the park to raise awareness.
“When you have a body of water like this, it is foolish not to develop it,” said Bivens, a former city spokeswoman and reporter in San Antonio.
Bivens, referencing the development along the San Antonio Riverwalk, said shorelines are prime for attracting investment.
“It is amazing that we have this gem hidden in Fort Worth, on the east side where there is a need for economic development, and we don’t work this land. … There is no signage, the road is terrible. It is crazy,” Bivens said.
The lake is owned by Arlington, and Bivens, who is seeking her second term in the May 9 elections, said she wants to work with that city to raise public awareness of the lake.
“What we have working in our favor is the city of Arlington has already paid for a master plan. We just have to work our side,” Bivens said.
Improving quality of life
Lake Arlington was built in 1956 and, while it provides water for the city of Arlington, it also serves as a recreation, sailing and fishing spot. A trail along the shoreline, for example, was the first paddling trail in the Dallas-Fort Worth area designated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Arlington’s master plan for the lake, which was finished in 2011, is getting attention, with the Arlington City Council urging staff just last week to move froward with $3 million in improvements to Richard Simpson Park, Arlington’s 9-acre city park on the eastern lake shoreline.
Arlington Councilwoman Kathryn Wilemon, who represents that area of the city, said the improvements — which include restrooms, a pavilion, a public fishing pier, a lake rental building and trails, benches, picnic stations and a playground — are long overdue.
“We are going to completely redo it,” said Wilemon. “It is clean. It is well-kept. It is just really, really old and not adequate for the kind of activities we want to have at the lake.”
While Wilemon’s goal with the city’s investment is not necessarily economic development — Arlington’s side of the lake is already heavily developed — Wilemon said it will improve quality of life for the residents.
“We have got a beautiful lake for Fort Worth and Arlington, and we need amenities on the lake that draw people to it,” she said.
Bivens’ goal, and the goal of Southeast Fort Worth Inc., is to revitalize the Fort Worth side.
An asset in the back yard
Curvie Hawkins, chair of Southeast Fort Worth Inc. Board, called the lake an “asset” in southeast Fort Worth’s back yard, and the goal is to bring attention to it.
“If you take pictures now, of the sunshine glimmering off this lake like that, that is a beautiful sight,” said Hawkins as he described an early morning at the lake.
“Who wouldn’t love to be out here to enjoy this? Who wouldn’t want to wake up and see that in the morning? So we have to see that vision and sell that vision as a possibly in southeast Fort Worth.”
A big part of that plan, Bivens said, is going to be to reroute traffic. Right now, a common lake entrance is from Quail Road, which cuts through residential neighborhoods.
Bivens wants the city to add signs advertising the lake on Loop 820, which is just a few blocks east of Eugene McCray Park, and then reroute lake traffic to head down Berry Street, an already-established commercial corridor.
“Versus coming through a neighborhood, if you come down a major corridor you will see businesses grown along the way. It is just a given,” Bivens said.
The Arlington Yacht Club, which leased space at Richard Simpson Park since the 1960s, was forced to vacate that property when their lease terminated in March, Wilemon said. Under Arlington’s park master plan, the yacht club site is expected to become green space featuring walking trails and a rental pavilion at the water’s edge.
Pat Hollabaugh, commodore of the yacht club, said in a previous article that the group is looking at moving to Fort Worth’s side of the lake, but he was not reached for comment for this article, but Bivens said she would want to speak to the group.
The hopes for the park, which are in the early stages, don’t have a cost estimate or funding source yet, Bivens said, but she still hopes to have a July 4 or Juneteenth event at Eugene McCray Park this summer.
“Just ideas to raise awareness about this beautiful park, beautiful lake and raising the question, ‘What can we do to share this with the rest of Fort Worth?’” Bivens said.
Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984