Mansfield will start construction on two important trail projects this year: the North Main Street Trail near the historic downtown and the eastern extension of the Walnut Creek Linear Park to Texas 360.
The $2.8 million North Main Street Trail project just started construction and the city plans to start the Walnut Creek Linear Park this fall. It’s a monumental step for the city’s parks, which are funded by the Mansfield Park Facilities Development Corp’s half-cent sales tax.
The goal is to get people to consider walking or riding bicycles to get around town and not be so car-dependent, said James Fish, the city’s longtime park planner.
“That’s why it’s a big push in the industry and the nation to do trail connectivity to relieve our congestion,” Fish said.
Elsewhere in the city, there’s a lawsuit, a railroad track and bureaucracy blocking construction of other trail extensions.
North Main Street Trail unites downtown
The North Main Street bridge has always had a sidewalk on one side as it passes over the railroad tracks and Walnut Creek. But the sidewalk was anything but welcoming with a fence on one side and a concrete barrier on the other. So it’s rarely been used.
But as Mansfield revitalizes its downtown with new businesses, restaurants, a brewery and events, city leaders saw the need to connect the downtown strip to Town Park and the new upscale Main Street Lofts apartments.
The North Main Street Trail will feature 10-foot wide trails on both sides, on-street bike lanes and fewer lanes of traffic.
The trail goes from Pleasant Ridge Road south to Oak Street.
The goal is to make the trails more inviting for pedestrians and to get vehicles to slow down by narrowing the lanes. North Main Street will still be a four-lane street. Truck traffic will be rerouted around downtown.
The trail will have decorative railings and LED lighting that can be changed to any color to mark certain events and holidays.
Walnut Creek Linear Park heading east
For decades, park planners have dreamed of a concrete trail following Walnut Creek from the western city limits all the way to Joe Pool Lake, connecting most of the city parks, several schools and neighborhoods with a spine trail where people rarely have to cross the street.
The first phase of that trail opened in 2007 from Town Park to McKnight Park East, providing nearly 2 miles of uninterrupted trails.
There are still significant gaps along the trail that need to be filled in. This fall, construction will start on phase 2B from Oliver Nature Park east to Texas 360.
The $2.7 million trail will include four pedestrian bridges and three elevated boardwalk sections along 1.1 miles. The trail connects the soccer fields at the Philip Thompson Soccer Complex to the rocky fords and overlooks at Oliver Nature Park.
The trail will be concrete except where it passes through the Army Corps of Engineer property where it will switch to decomposed granite. The trail will then follow the Oncor easement south to Walnut Ridge Baptist church.
Complications delay other trail extensions
Logically, it would make sense for Mansfield to build phase 2A from Matlock Road to the eastern edge of the Oliver Nature Park before building 2B.
The problem is, that section is tied up in a lawsuit from homeowners in the Estates of Creekwood neighborhood. Mansfield originally planned to use an existing 4-foot trail that circles a lake just north of the neighborhood. A bridge was built connecting Oliver Nature Park to that trail and signs were put up saying it was part of the Walnut Creek Linear Park. Residents who backed up to the lake fought back, saying the privacy of their gated neighborhood was invaded.
They filed a lawsuit in 2014 arguing that the land belonged to the homeowners association. The drawn-out legal dispute resulted in the bridge being closed and a no trespassing sign being erected earlier this year. The full trial is on the docket for December.
As a result, the future of that trail is “contingent upon” the outcome of the lawsuit, Fish said. Once the lawsuit is resolved, the plan is to build a second bridge over the creek to connect to phase 2B.
Closer to downtown, the second phase of the Pond Branch Linear Trail hit a snag when the Union Pacific Railroad prohibited the city from using an old drainage culvert to go under the track.
The trail was originally planned to connect Rose Park to downtown. Mansfield was given initial permission to use the culvert but Matt Young, parks director, said the railroad later rescinded that.
Attempts to negotiate with the railroad were not successful.
“Union Pacific said we couldn’t go through their culverts,” Barnes said at a recent workshop.
Park planners are considering other options, including building a new culvert that would add an estimated $250,000 to the total cost.
On the far east side of Mansfield, the third phase of the Walnut Creek Linear Park will go under Texas 360 following the creek and continuing east to the Joe Pool Recreation Area.
This trail will require negotiations with the Texas Department of Transportation to go under the highway and will also go through Army Corps of Engineers property.
Mansfield will also have to work with Grand Prairie to coordinate where the trail ends because Lloyd Park is a secure area with an entrance fee. Fish said this section will have a “pretty good challenge we have to work through.”
Construction could start in 2020 or 2021.