Army Corps of Engineers no longer closing popular Fort Worth bike path

dfwnewsa | December 5, 2023 | 0 | Dallas News , Fort Worth , Fort Worth News

Army Corps of Engineers no longer closing popular Fort Worth bike path
Cyclist and Benbrook Lake camper Jay Williams gets ready to ride his electric bike around the South Holiday Park campsite. Williams previously said it was a “bummer” the trail would be closing. (Matthew Sgroi | Fort Worth Report).

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While patrolling Benbrook Lake over the last few months, the Fort Worth District of the Army Corps of Engineers have noticed a few changes along the trails.

The changes aren’t physical, said chief of public affairs Richard Bumgardner, but are indicated by how the cycling community treats Benbrook Lake’s trails, parks and campers. 

Only a few months after planning a closure date of Jan. 1, 2024, the Fort Worth District of the Army Corps of Engineers is suspending its plans to close South Holiday Park at Benbrook Lake to cyclists, officials told the Fort Worth Report. Now, the Army Corps plans to construct new trails and roads designed to minimize conflicts between cyclists and campers.

The decision comes after months of substantial community engagement and efforts made to address safety concerns, Bumgardner said.

“The community has self-policed remarkably,” he said. “We’ve had nothing but positive feedback from the cyclists to the staff to campers.”

A press conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. Dec. 9 at South Holiday Park. A community bike ride will follow. 

The proposed closure, initially scheduled for October but pushed back to January, aimed to de-escalate interactions between campers and cyclists, following 488 reported infractions between May and July 2023. 

The Fort Worth Bicycling Association did not respond to multiple phone calls requesting immediate comment.

Craig Roshaven, a Fort Worth Bicycling Association member, made it his job to keep an eye out on the trails.

“What we can do as a cycling community is we can persuade all the people who are persuadable to be more reasonable [on the trails],” Roshaven previously told the Fort Worth Report. “A lot of folks just don’t know.” 

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Bumgardner said the cycling community’s proactive stance in self-policing and adhering to safety norms led to a positive change. Infractions are now rare, he said.

“Our goal was that the community could come together and we could find a win-win solution,” Bumgardner said. “We want the cyclists here … we aren’t trying to drive them out.”

He noted the challenges of accommodating both campers and large groups of cyclists, especially on roads built in the 1950s not designed for such mixed use. 

“Safety is paramount,” Bumgardner said. “Quite frankly, that’s our driving force behind every decision here.”

Following a series of meetings with county and city officials, nonprofit organizations and community members, a comprehensive three-part strategy has been developed to address the issue:

  • Allowing cyclists to use both North and South Holiday Parks.
  • Setting up an alternative trail for cyclists to steer clear of the campgrounds to reduce interactions between cyclists and campers.
  • Constructing a new road to safely handle two-way traffic that will include a dedicated bike path.

Bumgardner said funding for these projects is still in the works, but that the Army Corps has met with Tarrant County, the cities of Fort Worth and Benbrook, and organizations like Streams and Valleys to get the plan underway.

Bumgardner emphasized the Army Corps could still decide to close the gate. 

“If the community reverts back to their former behavior patterns, then we may decide ‘OK, this is not working,’” Bumgardner said. 

Matthew Sgroi is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at matthew.sgroi@fortworthreport.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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