Upon our arrival in Fort Worth one of the first things we discovered that impressed us as being very well done, unique and a tourist worthy attraction was Heritage Park in downtown Fort Worth. Situated near the spot where Camp Worth was born in 1849, above the confluence of the Clear and West Forks of the Trinity River, with overlooks jutting out over the bluff, this park truly seemed like a great way to celebrate Fort Worth's history. Unfortunately the park is now closed, fallen victim to neglect and ignorance, it sits under the watchful gaze of the Tarrant County Courthouse like some metaphor for greater ills in the city of Fort Worth.
Ironically the now defunct park offers a bird's eye view of the proposed area that will be put under water by the Trinity River Vision Boondoggle, it being a bizarre project which will flood the historic confluence, turning it into a lake and canals, with the supposed purpose of flood prevention, even though huge levees built after floods in the 1950s have kept the Trinity River in its banks for decades.

We did not know Heritage Park had been allowed to die. We have read nothing about its demise in the local media. We do not know if the closure is related to the deaths in the Water Garden, a more well known park due south of the Fort Worth Convention Center. The 2 parks are like bookends on Main Street as it goes through downtown Fort Worth. Both parks feature, or in the case of Heritage Park, featured, adventurous waterworks. 

The Water Gardens have been remodeled and made safer, while Heritage Park has simply had the water turned off with the park blocked off by cyclone fence and 'park closed' signs. Heritage Park died at a young age, having been born in 1976.

We looked on the Internet for information about what has happened to Heritage Park. All websites which have information about Heritage Park make no mention of its demise. has a particularly good description of what is/was unique about this park. We will copy some pertinent info from that website below, and below that you will find photos we took on Thursday, October 11, 2007, the day we discovered Heritage Park had died.

We have heard from one of the architects who designed Heritage Park, Junji Shirai, who was saddened to learn what has happened to the park he helped create.


Click here for a map of showing the location of Heritage Park

Designed by Landscape Architect Lawrence Halprin, this park sits on the natural bluff of the Trinity River. It features a series of terraced walkways that are accompanied by a stream of water. The water starts at the high point of the site flowing over two walls of water. The wall on the south side of the park is a sheer concrete wall with the water flowing over an inscription on the inside of the park. The wall on the west side has the water flowing over a diagram of the layout of the original fort, which occupied the land just to the west of the park on top of the bluff. From the water walls, there are a series of troughs where water flows along side the walkways. As the walkways traverse down the hillside, the water follows them. Sometimes the water is at the pedestrians feet, while others the water flows at eye level. The lowest part of the park, near the Paddock Viaduct (Main Street Bridge), has the water flowing in two large waterfalls over the concrete. When the walkways reach the steepest part of the Trinity Bluff, there is an overlook, cantilevered and perched over the bluff itself. The overlook offers an excellent view of the convergence of the Clear and West Forks of the Trinity River, the Paddock Viaduct, and the historic power plat situated across the river. The Paddock Viaduct (NR, RTHL) allows North Main Street to cross over the Trinity and was an engineering feat when it was completed in 1914. It was the first reinforced concrete arch bridge completed in the United States.

Leading away from the west side of the developed section of the park is a brick trail that allows a pedestrian to access the river and the lower levels of the park. Along the trail are several ruins of stone buildings. These are some of the early buildings of the city and were a part of the La Corte Barrio. They were constructed in the early days of the 20th Century.


    click a thumbnail to view a photo 

Here we see the Tarrant County Courthouse, close enough that it should be keeping a watchful eye on Heritage Park, after all Heritage Park was built to honor those who founded Fort Worth and who's vision made it the city it is today. Obviously something has gone very awry with how Fort Worth is honoring its past in this particular venue. At the south side of the park sits the 3-sided sign you see here, with the courthouse in the background. Each side has a message under a themed heading, starting with "The Beginning: A Vision", then "The Vision Endures" (which we will copy below) with modern times covered by "The Second Century: Vision Fulfilled" (also copied below), which apparently means letting a park celebrating your heritage turn into a falling apart, fenced off eyesore.

The Vision Endures
   The people of Fort Worth look to the future with a vision shared by their first settlers. From a diversity of backgrounds, we stand together today with a spirit and determination that ensure a unique quality of life.
   While purposeful growth continues on gently rolling plains, Fort Worth retains her rich heritage with inner city redevelopment and historic preservation. Businesses and industries stand strong against economic adversity while ample water resources and great open spaces of river banks, bluffs, lakes and parks make this city an ideal place to live and grow, just as Major Arnold envisioned on that day in 1849,
   As Fort Worth began, so it continues. The enduring sprit that built the city keeps it growing, develops and preserves its green spaces, revels in its culture. Drama, dance, music, art, sports, parks---all the noble leisure pursuits of humankind---flourish alongside a stable education and business environment.
   The vision is Fort Worth. The spirit is her people.

Reading these words that sit so ironically at the entry to the deceased park, ideas that the words communicate seem so sadly bizarre, seeming to border on being blatantly hypocritical, such lofty verbiage rendered so meaningless by the decayed park the words ostensibly celebrate, the last sentence of the essay, meant to reflect the modern era, being the worst offender, that being "The visitor to Heritage Park walks on the paths of one man's vision, all those who follow and give life to that vision continue the legacy of courage and purpose." Where is the courage and sense of purpose needed to fix this park one can not help but wonder?

The Second Century: Visions Fulfilled
Main Street traverses the span of Fort Worth's history, from the western store fronts of the Stockyards area to the futuristic recesses of the Water Gardens. Brick paved streets connect silhouettes of glass tower which mirror adjoining historic restorations. The Trinity River bluff, site of the military encampment and center of frontier life, remains today at the heart of downtown development overlooking Main Street. Along the river, natural woodlands border carefully planned dwellings. 
   Economic and cultural development flourish side by side. Fort Worth is part of an international commerce and transportation center which is one of the largest markets in the nation. The visual and performing arts enjoy world-wide recognition. Acclaimed museums are clustered in a park setting. in the same area is the Coliseum where the annual stock show and rodeo are held. Varied educational opportunities and facilities and a wealth of human services provide an environment for the nurture of the city's most valued resources---its people.
   The quality of life in Fort Worth is a reflection of the diverse cultures of its people and their visions, and stands as a tribute to the efforts of each generation. A growing city, undaunted by the challenges of change, still bears the badge of a vibrant and distinctive western character.
   Throughout times of victory or crisis, growth or change, the people of Fort Worth join hands to achieve a high standard of excellence. The visitor to Heritage Park walks on the paths of one man's vision. all those who follow and give life to that vision continue the legacy of courage and purpose.

Scroll down to get a good idea of what a great monument to Fort Worth
 Heritage Park used to be and to see the sad state to which it has been allowed to fall....

A cyclone fence with a park closed sign hanging from it, blocking the main way into Heritage Park. The wall you see behind the fence features an abstract rendering of Camp Worth and the two forks of the Trinity River. When the park was functioning this wall had water running in front of it. The cyclone fence did not present much of a barrier. We were easily able to get past it to take photos. Please note, the sign says "Park Closed". It does not say "Do Not Enter" or "Do Not Trespass". 
Warning signs posted around the perimeter of Heritage Park date back to the days when the park was still functioning.

The sign warns:


The warnings all seem valid except for the risk of drowning one since water no longer flows inside the park.

The view from the overlook where you can see the two forks of the Trinity River coming together. If some people's vision becomes clear the view from here will one day look down on a lake. The bridge you see across the river is a Trinity Trail bridge.
2/9/08 we received the following feedback from a Fort Worth native saddened to learn of the sad fate of Heritage Park.
My name is Anthony Cisneros and I am a life long Fort Worth resident who grew up 10 minutes away from downtown right next to Oakwood Cemetery on the Northside. It is truly a shame that Heritage Park is closed. I came across your website after looking for a good landscape picture of Downtown Ft. Worth to draw for my Rapid Visualization class at ITT Tech. Looking thru the photos of Heritage Park brought back so many good memories of the days when I used to walk from my house thru Oakwood to the levies and across the Trinity into Downtown Cutting thru the park or sometimes catching the Tandy Trolley to the Tandy Center where I would enjoy a lazy Saturday afternoon watching the girls ice skate or grabbing a bite to eat at Bona’s Pizza or just plain wasting the day away wondering thru Downtown and somehow always ending it back at Heritage Park just hanging out taking in the scene on one of the hidden walk ways. You said it best when you described it as an elaborate tree house. It is so sad that the city has abandoned one of its most breath taking, scenic beauties in the entire city. Thank you for bringing back so many memories for me with your in depth photography and value for all things historic this amazing city has to offer.

Yours truly, 
A life long Fort Worth boy,
Anthony Cisneros
In this photo you see one of the walkways that traverse the bluff, taking you to different levels of Heritage Park. Wrong tense. We should have said, which took you to different levels of Heritage Park when it was still a park celebrating Fort Worth's heritage.
 Looking at the Main Street Bridge across the Trinity River.
Bridges and walkways take you to various levels of the park.
heritagepark14.jpg (75375 bytes) Water used to flow down the channel on the right.
Now we are standing on the circular walkway you see above, looking up at the dry waterfall.
The park seems like an elaborate treehouse.
A look back at one of the elevated walkways.
A bridge leading to the lookouts.
Looking up at the walkways and lookouts that used to give visitors such a good view of the Trinity River. If you are a Fort Worth native or D/FW Metroplex dweller who had no idea this park existed, are you thinking that you want to check this place out and wondering why it has been shut down?
Another look at the Tarrant County Courthouse and it's close proximity to the park that used to celebrate the heritage of Fort Worth.
A look at a dried up water feature.
This used to be an inspiring spot, with the sound of waterfalls and water flowing through various channels. The inscription on the wall just seems sad now. It says "Embrace the spirit and preserve the freedom which inspired those of vision and courage to shape our heritage".
heritagepark11.jpg (33968 bytes) When the water flowed this was a very special spot. 
With the water turned off Heritage Park now has the look of an abandoned fort, which may be its final destiny as it decays towards ghost town decrepitude. Future generations may play among the ruins and wonder if these moss covered concrete structures were actually part of the original Fort Worth.
Another look at the abandoned rapidly deteriorating formerly beautiful water-filled park.
 Where do these stairs lead?
At the top of the stairs we find this mysterious door. Note the blue rectangle at the bottom of the door. 

We looked inside the grate that covered the door's blue rectangle to find a room, well-lit, full of mechanical devices, likely the pumps that used to move the water that made Heritage Park such a special place.

The abandoned park put us in mind of the old video game called Myst where you explored around an abandoned island trying to figure out how to make various things work. We were unable to figure out how to unlock the Heritage Park puzzle though. We were also reminded of the hatches on LOST.

A sign points the way to the Trinity Trails, down on the banks of the Trinity River via the bricked path Heritage Trail.
The Heritage Trail route to the river used to be a well kept brick path that curved back and forth down the hill sort of like Lombard Street in San Francisco. But just like Heritage Park this also has been abandoned, in pieces in places, weeds growing through the bricks, erosion damage, no visible sign of upkeep. Was all this damage somehow related to the arrival of the Radio Shack Headquarters which so drastically altered the area at the end of this trail?
The bricks on the Heritage Trail have names and messages. We presume there must have been a fund raising program where people bought bricks. We wonder if they are due a refund now that Heritage Park and Heritage Trail have been abandoned by Fort Worth.

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