Neighbors and TCU professors unite to revitalize long-neglected park on Fort Worth’s historic Southside

Fort Worth Parks Superintendent Omotayo Ajayi was surprised to find homeless people camping outside Glenwood Park in the Southside Historic District upon his arrival. He knew that resources to help the park were limited, but he found hope in the Fort Worth Climate Safe Neighborhood Coalition. The coalition, made up of Texas Christian University (TCU) faculty, Historic Southside residents, and other community groups, has been instrumental in revitalizing the 37-acre park. The difference between his first experience and the park’s current state is palpable for Ajayi.

Historic Southside Neighborhood Association members have been pushing for more investment in Glenwood Park since early 2021, according to James Walker, the association’s president. TCU nursing professors Gina Alexander, Vicki Brooks, and Tammie Williams partnered with the neighborhood association and the Kids Environmental Education Network Group to address park inequality. The coalition now includes the nonprofit Community Frontline, the Texas Master Naturalists, and the Tarrant County Department of Public Health, and has achieved its first major goal of persuading city officials to spend $75,000 to develop a master plan for Glenwood Park.

Walker and the other residents already have some big ideas for the park. They want a splash pad for the kids, a new pedestrian bridge, volleyball courts, new basketball hoops, more trash cans, and pavilions for community members to congregate. The city has already purchased new playground equipment that will be installed over the next year, Walker said. For Alexander, the park updates fit into a larger campaign to raise awareness about climate change and how preserving open spaces in underserved communities can improve public health.

Alexander and Brooks’ journey to Glenwood Park began in 2019, and their team distributed 70 prescriptions that encouraged spending more time outdoors and exploring the world around them using the RxPLORE program. Their students completed approximately 50 park audits, which gathered data and perspectives on amenities offered in Fort Worth. Alexander and Brooks determined that Glenwood Park would be a key target for significant investment and support. The zip code has the lowest life expectancy in Texas, according to a 2019 UT-Southwestern study, and non-profit groups have dedicated significant funding to address racial inequities in the area over the past three years.

While the coalition has brought life and hope to many, challenges remain in other parks, such as Sycamore Park and Cobb Park, that could be connected with a bike path. The coalition could also push to expand the city’s tree canopy and preserve wild landscapes in Fort Worth. For now, though, the focus is on the Glenwood Park master plan. The coalition’s next meeting – and the last event of the spring – is set for 3.30pm on 11 May at Shamblee Library. The coalition has breathed life and hope into many because everyone works together. This is what a real coalition should be: everyone helps and has a certain responsibility.

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