A ribbon cutting was held for the Marty Leonard Lotus Marsh Boardwalk on Earth Day, April 22. Photo by Michael Smith.

May 16, 2024

One of the most popular attractions at the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge has been re-built and officially reopened last month, showcasing several new upgrades. The Marty Leonard Lotus Marsh Boardwalk's latest reveal was launched with a ribbon cutting on Earth Day, April 22.

The lotus marsh stretches from the Nature Center up towards Eagle Mountain Dam. The broad, shallow wetland supports a great diversity of bird life as well as fish, reptiles, amphibians and other wildlife.

The Nature Center initially built the boardwalk in the 1970s, allowing visitors to get out over the water and explore the marsh and its wildlife via a looping pier. The boardwalk also afforded a place to just sit and enjoy the wetland’s beauty and quiet.

A covered section of the boardwalk offers a view of the marsh lotuses. Photo by Michael Smith.

After 40 years, time and weather had taken their toll on the wooden structure. The main part of the old boardwalk was re-built in 2017, but the section that formed a U-shape, leading visitors southeast and then back to the shore, would have to wait until last year to come back to life. By March of 2023 the work was well underway

The upgrades extended beyond the boardwalk and include the building of a Lotus Marsh Pavilion with picnic tables, an improved parking lot with a restroom, and an improved section of trail along the shore. Nature Center Manager Rob Denkhaus coordinated the efforts of those funding, planning and building the project. 

The projects were paid for by grants from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and others; funds obtained by the Friends of the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge; along with gate fees. The Fain Group was the contractor that provided construction. 

The boardwalk was redesigned to make the full loop accessible to those with mobility challenges. The new section of the boardwalk gently slopes down, while the old one had steps down to the lower level. And now visitors get to the boardwalk by way of a sidewalk and a walkway that doubles back on itself in a shallow downward ramp. 

The Lotus Marsh Pavilion offers an ADA-compliant shaded picnic area adjacent to the boardwalk. Photo by Michael Smith.

“Everything is ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. We want everyone to be able to enjoy the boardwalk,” said Jared Wood, Natural Resources Manager at the Nature Center.

Wood thinks that the marsh is “one of the most valuable pieces of property that the city owns,” because it helps protect our watershed, hosts many wildlife species, and gives the public a chance to see "a type of natural area that is being lost.” 

Texas has the 5th largest wetland acreage in the U.S., according to the Texas Water Journal, but the state has lost many wetlands. By 1990 there had been a 52 percent reduction in Texas’ wetlands, and we don’t know much about what has happened since then, according to the Journal. 

The new one-mile Reclamation Trail, built on an old quarry site, winds through meadows and wooded areas across from the boardwalk. Photo by Julie Thibodeaux.

Wood also mentioned the value of the boardwalk as a secluded peaceful spot, a hotspot for birding and other wildlife viewing. He recently saw some folks, apparently college students, sitting and studying under the canopy area of the boardwalk. The covered platform is also periodically used for a yoga class offered by the Nature Center.

Across the parking lot, visitors can also access the new “Reclamation Trail,” which winds up through a former quarry, which was filled in last year and is now blooming with wildflowers. Wood told me that it is a unique trail, allowing visitors to see how disturbed areas are being reclaimed for native prairie and threading through some woodland.


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