The next phase of the Walnut Creek Linear Park started construction this month just as the city dedicates its newest downtown trail connection.
Despite the rain, city officials celebrated the opening of the new North Main Street Trail on Feb. 11, which connects Town Park and the new Main Street Loft apartment complex with downtown Mansfield. The half-mile trail goes on either side of Main Street and passes over Walnut Creek and the railroad tracks.
For Mayor David Cook, this will be a viable alternative to the city’s original plan to connect the Pond Branch Linear Trail to Katherine Rose Memorial Park. That plan was put on hold indefinitely because talks with Union Pacific to allow the trail to use a culvert that goes under the railroad tracks stalled.
“We’ve had some challenges with the trail getting under the railroad tracks,” Cook said. “I think this is a great step in the right direction for revitalizing downtown.”
This new section of Walnut Creek Linear Park, officially called Phase 2B, is scheduled to be open in spring 2020. Plans for the 1-mile trail include four pedestrian bridges, three boardwalks, an overlook and direct access to a neighborhood.
This phase stops short of connecting to any existing concrete trails at Oliver Nature Park because that area is still the subject of a lawsuit.
“We are not working on that segment at all until everything there is resolved,” said Ann Beck, marketing and communications manager for Mansfield Parks and Recreation.
At issue is the bridge Mansfield built years ago connecting Oliver Nature Park to an existing trail that winds around a pond behind the Estates of Creekwood. Residents in the gated neighborhood say the old 4-foot-wide trail behind their homes belongs to the homeowners association.
Mansfield contends the trail was gifted to them and was open to the public. A judge issued an injunction closing the bridge until the matter is settled in court.
Plaintiffs, who argue the bridge destroyed the privacy of their homes and violated the city’s own flood regulations, want the bridge permanently removed.
The 348th District Court granted a partial summary judgment in October in favor of the plaintiffs, saying the disputed land belongs to the HOA. The trial started Dec. 3.
The bridge remains closed and the trail route undetermined.
Heading east from Oliver Nature Park
The new extension will start at the far east side of Oliver Nature Park and crosses several tributaries as it winds through the thick woods south of Enchanted Acres. At one point, there will be a boardwalk with an overlook for panoramic views of Walnut Creek. As the trail heads east, there’s a spur that connects Lakeview Country Estates and two more boardwalks.
There, the trail connects to the Philip Thompson Soccer Complex where there will be a trailhead near the parking lot.
Construction will start at the soccer complex and move west toward Oliver Nature Park, Beck said.
From there, the trail continues east with a bridge over Walnut Creek and on to Army Corps of Engineers property. The Army Corps of Engineers requires that the trail on its land be decomposed granite, not concrete. This phase of the trail ends just west of Texas 360 near Walnut Ridge Baptist Church.
In the future, Phase 2C will continue the trail east along Walnut Creek, under Texas 360 to the Grand Prairie border at Joe Pool Lake. There’s no timeline for this segment of the trail, Beck said.
On the other side of Matlock Road, a future phase of Walnut Creek Linear Park will continue the trail south to Cannon Drive, where it will turn west.
Then, it will connect to The Shops at Broad Street mixed-use project. That trail will connect to the existing Walnut Creek Linear Park at James McKnight Park East, which connects all the way to Town Park in downtown Mansfield.
Dog park planning underway
For decades, Mansfield park officials have planned to make Walnut Creek Linear Park a spine trail that spans from the eastern city limits to the western city limits.
There are long-term plans to extend the trail west of Town Park to McClendon Park on the city’s far west side. That trail will also connect to the city’s future dog park, planned on East Broad Street near the historic Ralph Man house, 604 W. Broad St.
Design work on the dog park is 95 percent complete but the project will likely be done in conjunction with the rehabilitation of the Man House, the home of one of Mansfield’s founders and namesakes.
“The Man House needs a lot of detailed work and will likely take longer,” Beck said. “We don’t want to open the park with an active construction site on the same property, so we need to work on coordinating our timing to have at least the first phase of the house done at the same time as the park is ready to open.”
There’s no timeline for the dog park now, she said.
The dog park site was chosen because the back half of the property will connect directly to the Walnut Creek Linear Park, it’s got mature walnut trees growing throughout and it’s a flood plain that can’t be used for much else.
The Man House, which will be used for education tours and field trips, was built by Ralph Man just after the Civil War.