Craig Blackmon

Trinity River

A Fort Worth Park Points Toward What’s Possible for the Trinity River

Rather than dumping a billion dollars into the Trinity River Project, why can't Dallas simply build 100 Airfield Falls?

In the March edition of D Magazine, Architect Kevin Sloan laid out a vision for the future of the Trinity River that was bold because it was so simple. What if, Sloan wonders, the best future of the river could be realized by forgetting about the dream of constructing a grand park in the Trinity River floodway and, instead, embracing the subtle and quirky ecological system that already exists both in the floodway and along the spindly tributaries that wind throughout the city. Here’s how he put it:

My idea for the Dallas-Fort Worth Branch Waters Network is simple: let’s use all of it.

The network could be an attraction to form ribbonlike strands of urbanism along its edges, offering the civility of streets and shops on one side of a block, the forest and nature on the other. It could finally give Dallas a nature park hugging the banks of the Trinity. It could—to put it grandly, but without hyperbole—remake the entire region over the next century.

The best part? It’s already there, just waiting.

One of the challenges of Sloan’s idea is that it is so simple it can be difficult to imagine. As examples, Sloan points to Turtle Creek or a master-planned community in Addison called Vitruvian Park, which show how urban development can work harmoniously with natural settings.

Perhaps the best example of Sloan’s concept, however, is a new park that quietly opened in Fort Worth earlier this year. In the July edition, I write about Airfield Falls, a simple trail head park designed by Sloan that offers access to our western neighbor’s extensive network of Trinity trails. It is a delightful place, featuring an over-looked waterfall, butterfly garden, recovered ruins, and a striking sculptural trail marker constructed out of an old jet. It is exactly the kind of project that, if replicated around Dallas, could transform the way we understand and interact with our often misunderstood river.