Arlington voters to weigh in on expansion of Trinity Trails, new lake house project

The new lake house is under construction at Simpson Park. New amenities proposed include a new playground, trails, benches, picnic stations, a pavillion, an event garden and overlook, a new pier and boat storage.
The new lake house is under construction at Simpson Park. New amenities proposed include a new playground, trails, benches, picnic stations, a pavillion, an event garden and overlook, a new pier and boat storage. Special to the Star-Telegram

The city opened a new stretch of River Legacy Park trail in September that extends it to the eastern city limits, making the linear trail a full 7.5 miles long.

And on Lake Arlington, the city is getting ready to open the new 7,100-square-foot lake house facility at Richard Simpson Park that can be rented out for parties or special events. A grand opening is scheduled for November.

With these projects wrapping up, Arlington will ask voters on Nov. 6 to consider bond Proposition B that will fund the next phase of construction at those and other city parks.

The $19.1 million bond proposition is part of a larger $189 million bond package that includes street improvements, new fire stations and other improvements to city facilities.

If approved, the bond election will not affect the tax rate, said Lindsey Mitchell, strategic planning manager for the city of Arlington. City officials have proposed lowering the tax rate by half a penny for the second year in a row. Nearly 20 cents of the 63.9 cent tax rate from the 2018 fiscal year went to paying off bond debt. The City Council will vote on the 2019 budget that would reduce the tax rate to 63.4 cents per $100 of assessed value this month.

“We developed our projected capacity so it will not impact our tax rate at all,” Mitchell said.

The bond projects were vetted by a 19-member bond committee that met every week during the spring to narrow the wish list for the bond package.

Here’s a map that shows the locations of the various bond projects.

One step closer

For River Legacy Park, the bond includes $2.5 million to extend the trail west to the Fort Worth city limits.

“That’s been planned for a long time so once that’s completed, the entire span of Arlington will be completed,” Mitchell said.

That’s part of the larger regional plan to connect all the trails along the Trinity River in Fort Worth, Arlington, Grand Prairie, Irving and Dallas.

In May, Fort Worth voters approved a $4 million bond package to extend the Trinity Trails to their city limits with Arlington. Fort Worth officials will award a contract for design and engineering of that trail soon, said Joel McElhany, capital program manager for Fort Worth parks and recreation. Fort Worth’s segment is scheduled to be completed by early 2022.

If voters approve Arlington’s proposition, design work to extend the trail west would start in 2019.

De’Onna Garner, Arlington park planning manager, said there’s an old bridge over the Trinity River that’s been closed for years that could be repurposed for the trail.

“We’re going to look at the feasibility of possibly using that bridge. If that doesn’t pan out, we’ll go around,” Garner said. “We’re working with Fort Worth with their alignment as well to make sure we meet at the same spot.”

Arlington just celebrated the opening of the eastern section of River Legacy Park trail, which ends near Texas 360 and the Riverside Golf Club.

Long-term, Fort Worth will extend that trail east to Centreport Station (where the Trinity Railway Express stops) and eventually connect to Mike Lewis Park in Grand Prairie. From there, the trail will continue to Lone Star Park, then to the Campion Trail in Irving.

Dallas plans to cross the Trinity River near Trinity View Park in Irving to build a trail that connects to its system, which connects to downtown Dallas, Uptown Dallas and other trail networks.

There are still gaps to fill but the cities are working in concert to get the trail segments completed.

The bond proposition also includes $2.6 million to replace and realign about 2 miles of existing River Legacy Park trails. Some older sections also need to be widened from 10 feet to 12 feet so they are like the rest of the trail. This affects the trail from the Collins Street bridge west to the current endpoint.

“We’ll be moving part of that trail over away from the Trinity River,” Garner said. “Almost all of that will be replaced but not every single bit of it.”

Simpson Park plans

The old lake house at Simpson Park will be torn down later this year as the city opens the new facility. That project was part of the 2014 bond package and phase 1 of the improvement to the park, the city’s largest with access to Lake Arlington.

Phase 2 of those improvements will be on the Nov. 6 ballot as part of Prop. B. The estimated cost is $4 million.

New amenities proposed for Simpson Park include a new playground, trails, benches, picnic stations, a pavillion, an event garden and overlook, a new pier and boat storage.

But tearing down the old lake house also displaces the kayak and canoe storage that’s used by a local business.

Three years ago, Arlington officials approached Teresa Patterson and Charley Kemp about running a kayak and canoe rental at Simpson Park.

They started Adventures Unlimited Paddling Company where they could offer non-powered watersport rentals and classes. With the storage going away in November, Patterson said they will have to shut down operations even though she said they have a contract through April.

“Arlington does not intend us to be part of the new renovated park,” Patterson said in a letter to the Arlington Parks Board. “Without that storage, we cannot continue to serve the lake community or the city. In fact, it seems the city intends to reduce access to the park rather than increase it.”

In an interview, Patterson said the Arlington officials who initially asked them to offer rentals at Simpson Park aren’t there anymore. This could also affect the Kids Club summer program, Patterson said.

“We’re just one of the fish caught in the net but as an Arlington resident who grew up with this lake, it’s disappointing,” she said. “We’re doing this more for the love of it. We work day jobs and we’re happy if we break even. This is definitely not a money maker.”

Phillip Rogers, marketing and enterprise development manager for the city of Arlington, said the city’s contract with Adventures Unlimited actually ends at the end of the calendar year.

The city plans to continue offering boat rentals and will have a request for proposal process to find the next operator in 2019. Patterson’s company as well as others could submit RFPs.

“We see this as an opportunity to expand our park offerings,” Rogers said. “The lake house is moving locations because the existing building is in the floodplain. It’s cost prohibitive to remodel that structure.”

He did acknowledge that there have been complaints about storage from nearby some residents, who call them an eyesore.

“We’re obviously trying to manage both sides here by providing the amenity and honoring the feedback we’re getting from Arlington residents,” Rogers said. “We intend to work with the vendor through the RFP to still allow customers to rent kayaks, canoes and sail boats on Lake Arlington.”

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