The Pond Branch Creek isn’t nearly as well-known as Walnut Creek, which has a country club, a major road and many other namesakes in Mansfield.
But this unsung creek that winds through downtown Mansfield finally gets some notoriety as the city celebrates the grand opening of the Pond Branch Linear Trail.
For this less than a half-mile trail, it’s about the destinations, not the length of the journey. From Mellow Mushroom and Steven’s Garden & Grill to neighborhoods and The LOT, visitors on the trail can easily traverse all the downtown Mansfield landmarks.
Mansfield leaders and city staff cut the ribbon on the $2.4 million Pond Branch Linear Park Feb. 12 after years of planning and hard work.
“What a great day to see this beautiful trail that’s been constructed here in downtown Mansfield,” said Mayor David Cook.
The trail was one of the first projects that Matt Young, director of parks and recreation, had on his plate when he arrived in Mansfield in 2016. The trail had its share of challenges such as buying land and relocating utilities and storm drains. City staff from multiple departments pitched in to clean up vegetation and debris that had taken over the creek.
“Before we started, you couldn’t see to the other side with all of the debris and overgrowth,” Young said. “Guess what? We made it happen. We’re here today. It takes a lot of people to make that happen.”
The trail begins at Dallas Street and heads north where it connects to Kimball Street. From there, it goes to Mellow Mushroom and the still under construction Backyard, which will have Twisted Root, Tacos & Avocados, Hypnotic Emporium and By the Horns Brewery. From there, the trail goes under East Broad Street using the drainage culvert for the creek. The trail crosses Elm Street and ends at Sycamore Street, a short walk from Steven’s Garden & Grill.
Phase 2 of the trail will continue north to Katherine Rose Memorial Park where it will connect to the much longer Walnut Creek Linear Park. The challenge with phase 2 has been getting permission from Union Pacific Railroad to go under the train track. The city has proposed using an old drainage culvert but the project remains in limbo for now.
“That phase is still pending approval from Union Pacific,” said Ann Beck, marketing and communications manager for parks and recreation. “We are anxious to get to work on it but don’t have any control until UP decides it meets their safety standards.”
By the end of the year, another separate trail will go along both sides of North Main from downtown to the Main Street Loft apartments and Town Park, which also connects to the Walnut Creek Linear Trail.
“The area will still get their much-desired connection very soon,” Beck said.
City Manager Clayton Chandler said magnificent things are going to happen in downtown in the coming years.
“This is a significant step towards the accomplishment of a great dream and vision,” Chandler said. “There’s a spine trail that runs from one end of this city to the other that will basically join significant areas of the city and make this a community such that you can traffic through it on pedestrian or bicycle with great steps along the way.”
There’s still one blemish along the trail the city hasn’t been able to get rid of, yet. Just before Elm Street, there’s a metal building covered in bright red spray paint warning trail users about snakes and rats and urging them not to shop in Mansfield because the city steals.
Charles Morales owns the building and claimed responsibility for the graffiti, saying the city tore down his fence and threw out many of the auto parts that were back there. The land actually belonged to a nearby church but had been fenced in and maintained by Morales for several years, which he said gave him rights over it. Workers showed up one day without notice.
“The city stole it, they took it away from me,” said Morales, who has been at odds with the city for more than a decade. “They just keep on pushing me.”
He looked into hiring a lawyer but said it would be more expensive to fight this in court than he would ever get in a judgement.
He said Mansfield has threatened to cite him for the graffiti but he’s undeterred.
“My sign stays up,” he said.