Please note: This is the most current information available. City staff cannot discuss or comment on this topic outside of anything posted in the statement below. This page will be updated when new information becomes available.
Information Regarding Bridge Closure at Oliver Nature Park
In 2018, Judge Mike Wallach ordered the City to place a barrier on the bridge to prohibit or deter pedestrian access over the bridge and to place a no trespassing sign on the barricade. Though the court case has taken many twists and turns, Judge Wallach’s Order remains in place as of the date of this update requiring the City to continue to prohibit access across the bridge.
The dispute between the parties is centered on the ownership of certain real property generally referred to as the R2 lots. The lots in question lie along the southeastern bank of Walnut Creek as it abuts the Elmer W. Oliver Nature Park (Oliver Nature Park) property. The litigation involves certain individual lot owners in the subdivision abutting Walnut Creek who have sued the City and related individuals and boards of the City. The R2 lots are part of the City’s longstanding plans related to connectivity of its trail system throughout the City. The Plaintiffs have alleged that the R2 lots (and the public jogging trail located on said lots) are private and only for the benefit of the select few living in their subdivision.
The City claims title to the R2 lots by virtue of deeds that were conveyed from the original developer in 1995 to be held in trust for the City until the City was ready to develop the trail property. Plaintiffs, on the other hand, attempt to claim title to the R2 lots through a previous homeowners’ association’s documents filed by the developer in 1995.
In the summer of 2013, nearly twenty years following the conveyance of the R2 lots to the entity holding the lots in trust for the City, the City of Mansfield erected a pedestrian bridge to connect portions of the City’s linear trail system in accordance with the City’s long-standing park plan. The bridge connected an existing trail located in the Oliver Nature Park to an existing trail located on the R2 lots. It is this bridge that prompted Plaintiffs’ lawsuit and it is this bridge that remains closed pursuant to Judge Wallach’s Order as discussed above.
Plaintiffs brought suit in early 2014 and sought an order from the Court that would require the City to close the bridge. Plaintiffs’ request was initially denied and Plaintiffs appealed that denial. In 2016, the Fort Worth Court of Appeals first upheld the denial but then changed course and voted to reverse the lower court’s denial. The City appealed the Court of Appeals reversal to the Texas Supreme Court and in December of 2017 the Supreme Court denied review after asking for full briefing.
The case was then referred back to the trial court to implement the decision of the Court of Appeals overturning the trial court’s decision and directing that an order to barricade the pedestrian bridge be issued. Following the Order closing the bridge, the case proceeded at the trial court level on the merits of the dispute (i.e. who owns the R2 lots). In late 2018 Judge Wallach issued an Order holding, among other things, that the HOA governing the subdivision owns the R2 lots.
The City appealed Judge Wallach’s 2018 Order and in 2021 the Court of Appeals overturned Judge Wallach’s Order holding that the trial court erred when it determined that the HOA owned the R2 lots. The Court of Appeals sent the case back down to the trial court yet again where the case currently sits waiting for a ruling from the Judge as to who owns the R2 lots. The Judge held a hearing to receive arguments from both sides on September 27, 2022 and has taken the matter under advisement. This ruling from the Judge, when it comes, will guide the City in determining when and how the bridge may be opened.