Dana McCormick doesn’t have to go far to escape suburbia.
The Grapevine resident just walks down to where Heritage Avenue dead ends and enters the Big Bear Creek Linear Park. A few minutes down the trail, she’s immersed in large trees and the sound of birds chirping and a creek flowing.
The forest is so thick you can’t see a single house or hear any cars. On a hot summer day, the temperature drops several degrees.
This hidden oasis could transform dramatically if Grapevine’s proposal to extend Heritage Avenue over Big Bear Creek moves forward.
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At $8.1 million, the half-mile bridge project is the biggest-ticket item in a $44.1 million bond proposal that could go before Grapevine voters this fall.
McCormick and her neighbors on the north and south end of Heritage Avenue are fighting the project, calling themselves the Heritage Bridge Busters. They’ve got signs, shirts and a Facebook page.
“It’s going to go right through the middle of this greenbelt trail and it’s going to negatively impact a lot of people who use this trail a lot,” McCormick said. “It literally makes no sense to put what’s going to be a high-volume bridge through the middle of a neighborhood that’s already existing and through an existing greenbelt and park area.
“It doesn’t seem consistent with what Grapevine has done,” she said.
The trail connects Parr Park and several neighborhoods to other city parks along the creek. The area east of Parr Park, where the bridge is planned, is in a flood plain so opponents say the entire road will have to be elevated.
Grapevine officials haven’t done any design on the project, yet. The Bridge Busters fear the trees will be wiped out and they’ll be left with an ugly mess of concrete pillars covered in graffiti combined with road noise and displaced wildlife.
Other Grapevine residents support the road project, saying it’s necessary to provide another north-south arterial street for residents and school buses and to improve response times for emergency vehicles.
“I can only base it on my confidence that the city of Grapevine has always responsibly mixed progress with the smallest impact possible,” said Paul Schaefer, part of the group Connect Grapevine that advocates for the bridge.
“There’s no doubt you’re going to hear more traffic noise than you did before,” he said. “I don’t think that’s destroying the park.”
Public hearing set
Debate about the Heritage Avenue bridge prompted the city to set a public hearing for 6:30 p.m. July 17 at the Grapevine Convention Center.
City Manager Bruno Rumbelow said feedback from the public hearing will help the City Council decide what projects to put on the ballot for the November election.
Nothing is decided yet and the council has until Aug. 17 to call the bond election.
Other bond projects include two new fire stations, renovations to the animal shelter, rebuilding the Grapevine Golf Course clubhouse and several road projects. Many of the bond items would be separate propositions, including the Heritage Avenue bridge, Rumbelow said.
“That issue is probably singularly driving the public hearing,” he said. “There’s a lot of conversation and sensitivity to make sure that citizens are heard and input is gained before they make a decision.”
If the proposal does make it to the ballot and get approved by voters, Rumbelow said the bridge design would be sensitive to the trail network and the trees.
“We will respect that area to the extent that’s possible and still build the improvement,” he said.
Councilman Paul Slechta said he’s concerned that the Heritage Avenue bridge issue could turn people against the whole bond.
“My main concerns are the fire stations and the animal services,” Slechta said. “We really need to build those two new fire stations and our animal shelter really needs to be redone. I think the residents will all get behind those projects.”
He hasn’t made up his own mind about the bridge.
“I’m looking forward to the 17th to hear what staff has to say as far as why we should have it,” Slechta said. “That $8 million is a lot of money to spend on a bridge.”
Planned for decades
The earliest mention of a north-south arterial street in that area goes back to 1968.
The Heritage Avenue bridge has been on Grapevine’s master thoroughfare plan since the 1980s.
A separate $5.3 million bond proposal would continue Heritage Avenue from Mustang Drive to Texas 26 where it intersects with Kimball Avenue in Southlake.
Slechta said if the Heritage Avenue bridge isn’t done, the other extension farther north doesn’t make sense either.
“I don’t want to do it just because it’s always been there,” Slechta said. “I don’t think that’s a cost benefit. I want to hear more about the fire response times.”
The bond proposal includes a new Fire Station at 3100 Timberline Drive, just a few blocks from the old location. Fire stations No. 3 and No. 4 could provide dual coverage with four-minute response times to neighborhoods on both sides of Big Bear Creek if the bridge were built, according to a staff presentation on the city’s website.
Another component to the project is the extension of Parr Lane east to connect to the new Heritage Avenue bridge. That would make it easier for emergency vehicles to reach homes on Parr Lane from either the north or south.
Saying that she’s no expert in emergency response times, McCormick cited a report that showed Grapevine’s Fire Department already has a great average response time throughout the city.
“I can’t imagine getting better service than we have right now,” McCormick said. “They’re super-responsive and very nice to work with.”
The bridge would also cut travel times in half for drivers who have to go around on Pool Road or loop around on the Texas 121 frontage roads.
Schaefer, who has a background in transportation logistics, said he sees a benefit for students who travel between Grapevine and Colleyville Heritage high schools.
It shortens the commute time for teenage drivers and keeps them off the Texas 121 frontage road. The buses also have to take the long way to reach to bus barn near Mustang-Panther Stadium.
“I think of the miles racking up on the school buses needlessly,” Schaefer said.
A beautiful canopy of trees
If approved by voters, engineering would start in 2019 with construction beginning in 2020. The project would be scheduled for completion in 2021.
Grapevine hasn’t done any engineering for the Heritage Avenue bridge or discussed what would happen to the trail.
But neighbors say the threat of a bridge has already caused one buyer to back out of buying a house near Parr Park.
Much of the trail is in the path of the bridge as it meanders through the trees and around the creek.
“There’s literally no other trail that has this canopy,” McCormick said.
Pippa Robe said these trails connect, or will connect, to others throughout Grapevine and other cities and are heavily used. Just to the east, Grapevine recently opened the Wall-Farrar Nature Park, which connects to the Big Bear Creek linear trails.
“I walk it every day with my dog,” Robe said. “Once you start taking these trees away, all this mud’s going to wash away. I’m really scared that we’re going to end up with a lot of concrete to keep the dirt from washing away.”
Laurie Good said the Big Bear Creek Trail is part of what makes Grapevine unique among other Northeast Tarrant County cities.
“You have a bad day, you come out here, when you leave you feel great. It makes you feel good. Our grandchildren will never even know that some place like this existed,” Good said.
- 6:30 p.m. July 17
- Grapevine Convention Center, 1209 S. Main St.