Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Demise Of Heritage Park In Fort Worth Texas

The title of this blogging was the subject line in a couple emails I got yesterday.

I believe it has been a couple years, already, since I was shocked to discover that downtown Fort Worth's Heritage Park had been boarded up, surrounded with cyclone fence and turned into another Fort Worth Eyesore.

I was appalled. Soon I was not alone in being appalled. Efforts began to fix Heritage Park. As far as I know, those efforts have not been successful

Yesterday I got 2 emails from a very significant appalled person, who had a personal reason to be appalled. The emails were from one of the architects who had designed Heritage Park, a Japanese architect named Junji Shirai.

The 2nd email from Junji Shirai said, "In addition to my previous mail, I am enclosing an illustrated plan view of the Heritage Park that I drew for the presentation to the city. I found it in my past work portfolio. I thought you might be interested in seeing one."

Among the city's excuses as to why Heritage Park was allowed to die is that, supposedly people did not feel safe there. That made no sense to me. Is that not a police station/jail type facility right next door? Could regular patrols, through the park, not easily be done?

I also thought that lighting could easily be added, so that Heritage Park would not be a dark, scary place when the sun went down.

So, I was a bit surprised to read Junji Shirai's description of the clever lighting that had been designed to illuminate the park. I suspect it was never installed, or had stopped being used by the time I first saw Heritage Park.

Like I said. Appalling. When I first saw Heritage Park I remarked that it is the only thing I'd seen in downtown Fort Worth that was at all unique. Heritage Park overlooked the confluence of the West and Clear forks of the Trinity River. That confluence will be destroyed if the Trinity River Vision Boondoggle ever actually happens.

Anyway, below is the message from Junji Shirai...

I came across the web site of yours that told me about the closure and deterioration of the Heritage Park, Fort Worth.

My name is Junji Shirai, a Japanese architect, and I am the one who designed that park. It was commissioned to Lawrence Halprin and Associates San, Francisco to design, and Don Carter (passed away), Satoru Nishita and myself were assigned to do the work. All 3 of us are truly nature-loving, easy going designers but we were dead serious about the representation of the great heritage the city of Fort Worth possesses in our design of the park. We were focusing our attention mostly to the spacial experience of the visitors when they stroll through the semi-enclosed space, walkways, water temple, streams along the walk among trees and shrubs, over looking the Trinity and enjoy the expanse of scenery, etc. One of the design features we made realized was the lighting system for the entire park. You might not have noticed it but all lighting for the night illumination are fully integrated into the walls. This was done in order to avoid ordinary light posts lining along the walks otherwise, for we did not want night visitors lit by overhead ramps. We are so proud of the final product when it was dedicated to the city and the citizens of Fort Worth, but I am so saddened to hear about what has happened to it today.

From the saying in the script on the wall, I believe those who do not regard their heritage right, would be regarded lightly in the days after they are gone.

Junji Shirai (currently reside in Tokyo.)


twister said...

I agree with his assertion and as you've so rightly point out. I've never been to the park and as it happens, I can't go to this park. Here is an urban area perfectly situated for a city to be proud of. I don't know what kind of activity was going on that compelled them to close it but I'm sure I could guess with elaborating too much. There should old fashion patrols of a young cop walking the beat and cameras. It's kind of shameful what's happened.

Durango said...

Twister, I think the main concern was a few homeless people took shelter in Heritage Park and used the water features as a bathing solution. Opening adequate homeless shelters, like modern cities do, apparently is not an option, even though Fort Worth sent a task force to Seattle and other west coast towns to see how to solve the homeless shelter problem.

The other excuse, a totally bogus excuse, for turning off the water features, was due to supposed liability after the deadly accident in the Water Gardens. However, there was no water feature in Heritage Park that posed the sort of obvious danger that that death trap posed in the Water Gardens.

You look at my Eyes on Texas website to see what's cool about Heritage Park.

You can still check it out. Just go around the cyclone fence barrier. Unless it's been beefed up.

Seattle had problems with its very similar park, called Freeway Park, a park lid over the I-5 freeway. Seattle did not let Freeway Park go. Instead security was beefed up, panic buttons were installed, better lighting, I forget what all.

You can pedal your bike from the Trinity Trail, right by the Jail, to Heritage Park. You'll go up a cool curvy bricked trail that has also been allowed to deteriorate. It reminds me of a pedestrian version of San Francisco's Lombard Street.

Anonymous said...

My guess is the elite of fort worth want that property and have a handshake deal to take it off the city's hands for a song. Look for it to be developed into River Front Condo's when the recession ends and financing for large scale development is easier to come by. :)