Parks department plans to restore neglected neighborhood

Stop Six Mural
Stop Six Mural near Ralph Bunche Park

Windows are boarded up, the concrete road is cracking and the pawn shop is one of the only businesses still open.

This is stop six: the southeast part of Fort Worth most choose to ignore or don’t even know exists.

Parks and Recreation Director Richard Zavala wants to change that.

“It all started out with a letter,” said Zavala as he pulled out plans and maps for renovating Ralph Bunche Park, an abandoned park in stop six.

Where it all began

Ralph Bunche Park was lost in the 1970s when the parks department leased the land to the Fort Worth Independent School District for 99 years.

In the 1960s, the department condemned 15 acres of the park so the Fort Worth school district could build Dunbar High School there.

“It all related to desegregation,” Zavala said. “They were under federal consent decrees.”

In the 1970s, the parks department released what was left of Ralph Bunche Park (about 35 acres) to the school district to help them comply with another federal desegregation order.

Fort Worth ISD built J. Martin Jacquet Middle school on the other side of the park, but left about ten acres of land in between the two schools uncultivated.

A few years ago the consent decree was lifted. The city wants the land back to renovate the park.

Soon to be renovated Ralph Bunche Park on 5600 Ramey Ave
Soon to be renovated Ralph Bunche Park on 5600 Ramey Ave

“I used to look at it when I first got here…it reminded me of a battlefield,” Zavala said. “Because it was just this no man’s land between the two schools fenced off. There were no improvements- there’s nothing there other than vegetation and stuff.”

Bringing back the park

Zavala said there wasn’t a lot of movement on the project until Councilwoman Gyna Bivens was elected and enthusiastically pushed the plan forward.

Now the park renovation is federally funded. The master plan will cost $1.5 million, and the federal government is supplying $500,000.

Farrell Ln, a street that leads to Ralph Bunche Park
Farrell Ln, a street that leads to Ralph Bunche Park

“Federal funding makes it more complex because you have to get a lot of approvals from HUD,” Zavala said. “We have to make sure we’re following all the steps at the right time because if we spend money before we’ve got an approval then we put all the money or some of the money at risk.”

Zavala said another stipulation is that the project must be completed and the funds expended by October 2017.

The completed park will include a monument to the UN diplomat and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph J Bunche and a monument on the history of stop six.

“Stop six is an area in the southeast part of Fort Worth,” Zavala said. “And the reason it’s called stop six is it was the last train stop.”

Zavala said the area is economically depressed.

rosedale1
Closed food store on Rosedale in Stop Six area

“A lot of vacant properties because they have done a lot of housing demolition, high crime, quick response rate,” Zavala said. “To me Ralph Bunche Park is going to help.”

Saving stop six

Ralph Bunche Park is not the only thing that is going to help. City Manager David Cooke allocated 2.6 million dollars of the city budget for neighborhood revitalization.

“This is the first year we’re going to do it,” Zavala said. “We’re picking stop six. We’re using our funding to do things in the neighborhood and to do some improvements in another park which is on Rosedale.”

Abandoned property in stop six neighborhood
Abandoned property in stop six neighborhood

Some of the neighborhood improvements include cleaning up vacant lots, removing dead or diseased trees, and upgrading the security lighting in the parks.

“PD has a lot of issues with guys hanging out in Rosedale Plaza Park,” Zavala said. “In fact one of the police officers came to one of our meetings. They found six or eight dime-bags and needles just laying around.”

The Fort Worth Police Department plans to put surveillance cameras in the lights. Zavala also wants to add lights to the Martin Luther King Jr. Park, especially around the community center on Truman Drive.

“I told them think of Quik-Trip,” Zavala said. “Make it look like that. Make it bright, really bright, so people feel comfortable coming into the building.”

Sunday morning in stop six
Sunday morning in stop six

Zavala said the housing authority is also working on the neighborhood revitalization project with a plan to improve the Cavile housing villa.

“The whole thing with public housing is that disbursement,” Zavala said. “If you consolidate it all in one location it doesn’t work and we’ve proven that. So now the strategy for public and subsidized housing is to disburse it throughout the community.”

Zavala said what really plagues the area are the vacant lots.

“To make commerce and retail and all of those things work you’ve got to have the density and the population,” Zavala said. “And a plan to go back in and rebuild and build with better stock.”

Zavala said the city has been working on that plan.