The Arlington Park Project
To describe a Julia Burgen Park as linear may be objectively accurate, but it fails to measure its multiplier effect. As construction begins next month on Phase I, this long-anticipated project promises beneficial interconnections that will not only be immediately apparent but will build over time.
As part of the Johnson Creek Corridor Plan and in sync with Champion Great Neighborhoods priorities, the City of Arlington plans to eventually create a series of linked linear parks that stretch from Gateway Park near the Parks at Arlington Mall up to the Richard Greene Linear Park near AT&T Stadium and Globe Life Park. Julia Burgen Park will help close the gap between Vandergriff Park and Meadowbrook Park.
The multiplier effect
While completing a system of linked linear parks will take some time, the creation of Julia Burgen Park along Johnson Creek is an important step towards its realization. It only takes a glance to the west to see what an interconnected system of greenways can do for a city.
“The City of Fort Worth is home to seven linear parks and over 70 miles of paved trails which link people to neighborhoods, business, nature and recreational opportunities,” said Whitney Rodriguez, marketing coordinator with the City of Ft. Worth Park and Recreation department. “These parks provide a landscape for social, economic and environmental connectivity.”
Kristen Camareno, Fort Worth Bike Sharing executive director, sees first-hand how linear parks bolster participation in the city’s bike share program. Trinity Park boasts one of the busiest bike share stations in the city, helped along by factors inherent in linear parks.
“Nearby parking, the safety of the trails for novice users, and the accessibility of stations relative to an established park and trail system are all contributing factors,” said Camareno. She also credits social activities within bike-able distances from the park as well as “spontaneous rides that originate because people are already at the park with recreation in mind and may be better equipped and dressed to jump on a bike and go.”
“As our board and members work collaboratively with the City to envision a bike share program for Downtown Arlington,” said Tony Rutigliano, president and CEO of Downtown Arlington Management Corporation, “we clearly see Julia Burgen Linear Park as an anchor.”
Johnson Creek: a natural corridor
Linear parks developed along creeks and rivers benefit people, wildlife and help preserve those corridors. “Creeks and river corridors are excellent linear park prospects, providing logical connections within the community,” said Rodriguez.
“They (greenways) are very important within an urban setting because they almost function as a city’s lungs,” said Julia Burgen Park project manager Mitali Mandlekar. “That’s how the city can breathe.”
Championing the vision
Julia Burgen Park has been years in the making. In 1999, the City of Arlington used federal funding to purchase and tear down more than 100 flood-prone homes along Johnson Creek. Today, only empty streets and crumbling sidewalks remain.
Next month, 2L Construction will begin removing the abandoned asphalt to make way for the $1.7 million in park improvements, which Arlington voters approved funding for in 2008. The park is named for former Arlington City Council member Julia Burgen, well-known for her environmental activism.
“Julia Burgen dramatically increased the environmental awareness of the overall community and the political community – from protections we have now for trees to expanded landscaping requirements,” said Donna Darovich, Parks and Recreation board chair.
Come out and play
When completed in Spring 2017, Julia Burgen Linear Park will be located between Pecan Street and Collins Street, east of UT Arlington and south of Downtown Arlington. Center Street will run through the park, which is also surrounded by several neighborhoods. The park’s main entrance will be on Ruby Street, south of Mitchell Street.
“Julia Burgen Park will … function as a significant linkage within the residential communities and UTA campus,” said Mandlekar.
Featuring a covered playground and a nearly mile-long hike and bike trail along Johnson Creek, the 66-acre linear park will also offer about two dozen lighted parking spaces, benches, picnic tables, a bike rack, water fountain, and a pavilion available for rent.
Mandlekar imagines families and children from the surrounding neighborhoods visiting the park and exploring its trails and natural beauty.
“With so much technology available to children, this element of experiencing and connecting with nature is so important,” Mandlekar said. “It’s amazing to grow up on a street where you can say ‘I have this beautiful park,’ where you can build memories, not just with your family but with your friends.”
Park named for environmentalist gets a makeover, courtesy of bond