2007: Walnut Creek Linear Trail
The Walnut Creek Linear Trail runs west to east through the center of Mansfield along the banks of Walnut Creek, connecting six parks and multiple neighborhoods and business districts. Trailheads are located at Town, Rose, Hardy Allmon, McKnight East and West, Oliver Nature and Philip Thompson Parks.
In the late 1970s, community leaders began working on a plan to develop what was being called City Park (James McKnight Park East) into “Mansfield Central Park.” The concept would combine 25 acres to the east of 287 and 14 acres to the west into one linear park that would connect both sides of the city with a lush, wooded green space along Walnut Creek. The original plan called for four general purpose fields for baseball, soccer and softball, four lit tennis courts, a day camp area, paved trails and natural trails and a pavilion with picnic tables.
At the time, the project was a revolutionary way to preserve green space and connect the growing city, and took years of work by volunteers, staff, community leaders and residents to assemble the various parcels of land and necessary funding required to make it all possible. Thanks to a $500,000 grant from Texas Parks and Wildlife and a $200,000 donation from James McKnight, the park (both McKnight East and West) officially opened on August 28, 1988, bringing state of the art softball fields, green space, playgrounds and wooded picnic areas, all connected by a trail that would become the first segment of our award-winning Walnut Creek Linear Trail.
With the success of that connection, a group of residents and city leaders formed the Linear Park Committee in 1992 to develop further plans to create a trail that would stretch from city limits west to east. They spent years working on land acquisition and design, which included various public feedback meetings, negotiations with residents to donate tracts of land, and working with economic development to ensure growth left space for the trail to expand. The initial plan, approved by MPFDC in 1993, called for five phases:
- Phase one expanded and completed the trail between McKnight Parks east and west.
- Phase two extended the trail from McKnight West along the creek to Walnut Creek Drive.
- Phase three included developing the newly acquired Rose property and adding a trail connection from there to Main Street.
- Phase four crossed Main Street heading West, ending near McClendon Park West.
- Phase five extended east from McKnight Park East towards Joe Pool Lake.
Upon approval, MPFDC began the master plan and design of that concept, which had multiple changes before finalizing a design. The final plans were submitted for a grant with Texas Parks and Wildlife, who provided $500,000 in matching funds to construct what became Phase One, the stretch from McKnight East to Town Park. That 1.9-mile trail was completed in segments and opened to the public with a free walk/run event called Winter Walk (now known as the Snowman Run) on January 27, 2007.
Key points along the phase one trail include the Red Bluff overlook, located just east of Hardy Allmon Soccer Complex. A fence was added with the trail connection to keep visitors safely along the trail, but a hundred years ago the cliffside along the creek was a popular picnic destination. Council minutes approving the land purchase even referred to the property as a "lover's hangout."
In 2005, the city installed a historic railroad bridge over a Walnut Creek tributary near Palm Street, just east of McKnight Park West. The bridge had been purchased years earlier for preservation and was dedicated “Jeffryes Crossing” in honor of a longtime member of the park board, Steve Jeffreys. The bridge was an important step in the development of the linear trail, which crosses the water in a number of places.
Development and Improvement
Phase one of the linear park project opened in 2007 as the Walnut Creek Linear Trail, connecting McKnight Parks East and West to Hardy Allmon Soccer Complex, Rose Park and Town Park.
On February 12, 2018, the city officially opened Pond Branch Linear Park, which includes a half-mile trail from East Kimball Street along Pond Branch Creek, running parallel to Main Street in Historic Downtown Mansfield. While not connected to the Walnut Creek Linear Trail, it is a key segment of the overall trail master plan and is planned to ultimately link. A 70 foot-wide steel pedestrian bridge at Kimball Street links area homes to the business district, a much-needed connection lost to flooding many years ago.
On February 11, 2019, the North Main Street Trail was added to connect pedestrians, hikers and bikers to Historic Downtown Mansfield from Walnut Creek Linear Trail at Town Park. The 10-foot wide trails stretch along both sides of North Main Street from Oak Street to Pleasant Ridge Drive. The portion of the trail that crosses the bridge is incorporated into the street, with both lanes of traffic remaining intact but narrowed to accommodate the 14-foot wide trail. Concrete barriers divide the trail from the street traffic and keep pedestrians and cyclists safe from motorists. Once over the bridge, the trails enter Town Park on the east. On the west side of the street, trails continue as sidewalks until Pleasant Ridge Drive, where walking paths end and cyclists transition to the existing street. North Main Street Trail also includes trail and roadway lighting for safety at night. Construction was partially funded by the Federal Transportation Alternatives Program administered through the Department of Transportation.
On February 15, 2020, Mansfield City Council and Mansfield Park Facilities Development Corporation cut the ribbon on the Phase 2b expansion. The segment stretches from the rear of Elmer W. Oliver Nature Park to the 360 Tollway access road, with 1.25 miles of 12-ft wide concrete trails. A major trailhead is located at Philip Thompson Soccer Complex, with neighborhood access midway-through.
In 2022, Phase 3A of the Walnut Creek Linear Trail was completed, adding another 1.35 miles behind and around McKnight Park East, through the Shops at Broad development to the intersection of Cannon and Carlin Roads. The addition was welcomed with a 2.22 mile fun run on February 22, 2022 that made a loop down and back along the new trail.
In May 2022, Mansfield voters approved a $10.5 million bond to fund the remaining segments of the Walnut Creek Linear Trail both east towards Joe Pool Lake and west to the Mans Best Field Dog Park and western city limits.
The Trail is named for the creek it runs alongside, which was originally called Cedar Bluff Creek. Prior to Man and Feild building their gristmill, the area now encompassing the city was known as Walnut Creek, as waterways were crucial to early settlements.