Other Voices

‘Confluence’ plan cares for Trinity River, links Fort Worth to Dallas, Arlington

Weaving its way through the landscape of North Texas, the Trinity River is one of Fort Worth’s most vital resources.

Throughout its watershed and tributaries, the river supports the region’s economy, fosters a rich and varied ecosystem, and links together a multitude of neighborhoods, communities and cities. In fact, Fort Worth owes its very existence to the river: Major Ripley Arnold chose to establish the fort here in 1849 because of the many benefits associated with the Trinity.

Yet, once upon a time, Fort Worth turned its back on the river. After the 1949 flood, our once-meandering river was channelized. The levees that were built to protect us also served as a barrier, and the river was completely neglected. The Trinity needed a visionary champion to bring it back to its former glory.

Phyllis Tilley recognized these needs and devoted much of her life to making her vision a reality.

In the late 1960s, Phyllis drove across the 7th Street Bridge, looked at what had become “The Ditch” and said, “We’ve got to clean this up.” She assembled a determined and courageous group of community leaders who saw the river’s potential. Together, they started the hard work of cleaning up the river and restoring access to it.

In 1969, the Fort Worth City Council designated Phyllis’ group the Streams & Valleys Committee, and in 1971, the committee became a nonprofit organization. Two years later, Phyllis and the Junior League brought people back to the river for a great celebration. They called it Mayfest.

May 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Streams & Valleys committee. For five decades, Streams & Valleys has remained a passionate voice for the Trinity River. We’ve helped educate our community, raised money for vital projects, and beautified the river and trails. Perhaps most importantly, we’ve brought people together to get important things done.

In the 1960s, our “trails” were simply maintenance roads. Today, after years of strong leadership and successful planning efforts, the Trinity River system has been transformed into a hub of community activity, a magnificent natural and recreational amenity that features more than 72 miles of trails.

With decades of progress behind us, an even bigger opportunity lies ahead with the recent completion of “CONFLUENCE: The Trinity River Strategic Master Plan.” This ambitious plan is all about sustaining a thriving river that connects people and places, spurs economic development and offers abundant recreational opportunities for the region.

CONFLUENCE details key goals to propel the river system forward, such as ensuring equitable and inclusive river access, establishing a far-reaching mobility network, creating a learning environment for all ages, fostering a sense of place, and maintaining access to clean and safe water. The plan features major projects located across the entire river system, from University Drive, to Sycamore Creek, to the Fort Worth Stockyards, to The River Loop Trail — an initiative to link Fort Worth’s trail system to Arlington, Dallas and beyond. To download the plan, please visit streamsandvalleys.org.

This master plan is filled with big dreams for our beloved river, and together we can channel them into a beautiful reality.

Of course, we didn’t do all of this alone. We are forever grateful to our River Partners – the City of Fort Worth and the Tarrant Regional Water District – who have been our dear friends and colleagues for a half-century and have played an indispensable role in the transformation of our entire river system.

Please join us as we navigate this bold new course.

If we follow it, the river will lead us forward.

Stacey Pierce is the Executive Director of Streams & Valleys, a nonprofit river steward whose mission of a clean and healthy waterway is to inspire, fund, and advocate for projects that improve and expand community access and use of the Trinity River and its trails. The organization plans and coordinates recreation enhancements and beautification efforts.