As young children laughed and played on the swings and slides nearby, more than 150 residents and community leaders gathered Thursday morning to celebrate the opening of the new Julia Burgen Park
in central Arlington.The 66-acre linear park, located at 1008 Ruby Street, is a dream that has been years in the making. Arlington voters approved funding for the $1.7 million project during the 2008 bond election. The park features a mile-long hike and bike trail, about two dozen parking spaces, benches, a covered playground for ages 2-5 and 5-12, swings, a bike rack and a pavilion available for rent.The park is named for former Arlington City Council member Julia Burgen, who is well-known for her environmental activism.During the dedication ceremony Thursday, Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams was one of several community leaders who said the beautiful greenspace would not have been possible without the passion and dedication of its namesake.“The thing you’ve got to know about Julia is that she will tell you, ‘Nature is not a place to visit. It’s home. We’ve got to take care of it as our home. We’ve got to preserve it.’” Williams said. “She has had that message throughout.”In the 1990s, Arlington city leaders were trying to determine how to address chronic residential flooding along Johnson Creek. One proposal was to use federal funding to turn the creek into a concrete-lined channel. Burgen, who was on the Arlington Conservation Council, fought to preserve the creek. She argued that the area should be turned into park land to address the flooding problem.“If we let the creek have the space for the water, then we can have something that is really worthwhile,” Burgen said during Thursday’s ceremony.
So instead of changing Johnson Creek, the city used federal funding to purchase and tear down more than 100 flood-prone homes to create the greenspace that is now an amenity for the community to enjoy.
Julia Burgen Park is located between Pecan Street and Collins Street, east of the University of Texas at Arlington. Center Street runs through the park, which is located south of Downtown Arlington and also surrounded by several neighborhoods.Jaimi Garcia pushed her son Lucas on the swing set Thursday morning while her daughter Annette and niece Ailyn played on the nearby slides.Garcia, who lives in a nearby apartment complex, said she’s thrilled that the city has built a beautiful park within walking distance.“We’ve been bringing the kids here every afternoon,” Garcia said. “This playground is really nice. It has a lot of shade.”As part of its Champion Great Neighborhoods priority, the Arlington City Council supports projects such as linear parks that are designed to improve the quality of life for residents.In the Johnson Creek Corridor Plan, Arlington plans to eventually create a series of linked linear parks that stretch from Gateway Park near the Parks at Arlington mall up to the Richard Greene Linear Park near AT&T Stadium and Globe Life Park. The Julia Burgen Park closes the gap between Vandergriff Park and Meadowbrook Park as outlined in the plan.