Leaders of the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, pictured in September 2021, hope a new University Drive construction project will improve pedestrian and vehicle access to the garden. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report.

By Haley Samsel, Fort Worth Report
Jan. 13, 2024

When Fort Worth Botanic Garden officials held listening sessions for a new master plan, one piece of feedback stood out. Again and again, community members said they were concerned about the garden’s entrance on University Drive, said Patrick Newman, the garden’s CEO and president. 

“One went so far as to say that they feel like they’re taking their life in their hands every time they make a left-hand turn into the garden,” Newman told Fort Worth City Council members last January. “I’ve made that left-hand turn hundreds of times, and they’re right. It’s very sketchy at best.” 

City staff will hold a Jan. 30 public hearing about their plans to remove 10 trees and convert just over 5 acres of park land into public right-of-way. Right-of-way designations allow governments to access strips of land near roadways for maintenance, utility transmission or other purposes. 

The garden’s master plan, adopted last year, imagines a clearer entry point off University Drive and new sidewalks for pedestrian access. Now, thanks to a project led by Fort Worth’s transportation and public works department, that vision could be closer to reality. 

Starting in June 2026, city crews plan to construct two traffic signals along University Drive: one at the Rock Springs Road intersection and another at the Botanic Garden Boulevard intersection. New medians and curbs will be installed for vehicular safety, along with new landscaping and pavement striping. 

In addition, the city plans to build four new bus transit pads to bring Trinity Metro riders closer to the garden and Trinity Park across the street. Two walking trails will connect the bus pads to existing trails in the park. 

Public transit access has been a key concern of garden leaders for years, said Bob Byers, the garden’s executive vice president. Pedestrians also have raised concerns about safely getting to the garden. A new sidewalk on the western side of University will address those ongoing issues, he said. 

Bob Byers, executive vice president of Fort Worth Botanic Garden, greets guests on March 3, 2022. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report.

“People have been walking through mud holes and grass and all kinds of stuff ever since I’ve been here,” Byers said. “And we do have a lot of folks, more and more folks particularly in Arlington Heights, that would like to walk, and it’s kind of hard to get here.” 

To move forward with the project, which would take about nine months of construction, city staff will hold a Jan. 30 public hearing about their plans to remove 10 trees and convert just over 5 acres of park land into public right-of-way. Right-of-way designations allow governments to access strips of land near roadways for maintenance, utility transmission or other purposes. 

University Drive currently passes through parkland with no official documentation of public right-of-way, and where right-of-way does exist, it is narrower than the city’s current standards, according to the public hearing notice.

“No existing park land will be taken from the Botanic Garden or Trinity Park for the roadway project — just establishing existing roadway and park boundaries,” city spokesperson Lara Ingram said by email. 

As for tree removal, five are dead and on the parks department’s list to be removed, Ingram said. Another five trees must be cleared to accommodate sidewalk construction, costing the city $2,400 in tree mitigation fees. 

Proposed landscaping would add hundreds of shrubs and 53 new large and small trees along the street, including elms, live oaks and crape myrtles, among other species, Ingram said. 

Construction near the garden is part of a multiphase revamp of University Drive. Crews are in the midst of a $13.43 million expansion of the street into a six-lane road with a raised median, improved crosswalks and enhanced street lighting. Construction between West Rosedale Street and the University Drive bridge over the Trinity River began in February 2023 and is expected to wrap this spring.

The intersection of University Drive and Old University Drive, pictured in December 2023, sees cars backed up at this traffic signal all hours of the day as the two streets undergo a $13 million upgrade. Photo by Matthew Sgroi | Fort Worth Report.

Byers first learned about the city’s plans for the garden’s portion of University Drive two years ago. He anticipates the new streetlights and crosswalks will make it easier for people to find the garden. Visitors have complained about not being able to see an entrance sign from the street, especially at night. 

“All of our efforts to light it up and make it easier to see have not worked as well as we would like,” he said. “This is going to help a lot with that, and certainly if there’s a stoplight there, it will make the entrance a lot clearer.”

The project will come with some temporary traffic management issues, especially when popular attractions like Lightscape are on display, Byers said. But he believes the headaches will be worth it in the end. 

“That kind of goes with the territory when you’re doing an improvement of any kind, and certainly on a major street,” Byers said. “I think, for the most part, this is a win-win.” 

Public Meeting on Fort Worth Botanic Garden and Trinity Park Project 

What: Transportation and public works staff will host a public meeting about their plans to take about 5 acres of Botanic Garden Park and Trinity Park for right-of-way purposes along University Drive. Find more information here.

Time: 10 a.m.

Date: Tuesday, Jan. 30

Where: City Council Chambers, Second Floor of Fort Worth City Hall, 200 Texas St.

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at [email protected]This article first appeared on Fort Worth Report and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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