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Fort Worth moves forward with Panther Island bridge names, but White Settlement Road stalls

Construction of a bridge on North Herderson Street that is part of the Trinity River Vision Project. 3/31/21 Fort Worth Report Rodger Mallison
Rodger Mallison
Fort Worth Report
Construction of a bridge on North Herderson Street that is part of the Trinity River Vision Project.

From the names of notable Fort Worthians to the classic “Bridgey McBridgeface,” Fort Worth residents submitted over 1,700 suggestions to rename the three bridges connected to the Panther Island Project.

Henderson Street bridge, North Main Street bridge and White Settlement bridge are all unofficial names. The city solicited suggestions to rename the bridges in February 2022. Submissions closed in March.

Ten months later, Fort Worth City Council will revisit the name suggestions at an upcoming Jan. 24 work session. City staff will present the most popular themes of the names submitted by residents. The process of renaming the bridge was delayed while the city council focused on higher-priority issues, said Michelle Gutt, Fort Worth’s communications director.

The renaming on Panther Island bridges presents an opportunity to elevate notable figures of Fort Worth’s past, said Peter Martínez, a history professor at Tarrant County College.

“I think that would be huge,” Martínez said.

The names will be reviewed by a committee of members from the city of Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Tarrant Regional Water District, Streams & Valleys and Visit Fort Worth. The committee will then select five names to put forward for public voting, the city said.

The naming process has broader implications for White Settlement Road, which Mayor Mattie Parker said could be due for a change pending the renaming of White Settlement Bridge.

“I think from that we’ll get some lessons learned to decide if and when we’re going to embark on White Settlement Road and what that would look like,” Parkerpreviously told the Report.

Parker declined to comment this week on how the upcoming discussion about renaming the bridges might impact the renaming of White Settlement Road.

Pat Peterson, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and a founder of the Intertribal Community Council of Texas, said she was disappointed in the lack of progress to rename White Settlement Road.

The road is named after the town it leads to,White Settlement, which is enveloped by west Fort Worth. The name White Settlement refers to a group of homesteaders, under the protection of the soldiers in Fort Worth, that pushed out Native American tribes from the area.

“I don’t know what it’s going to take to get them up and moving and really get the ball rolling on it,” Petersen said. “I guess it’s just not a priority at this point.”

Naming public infrastructure after the city’s history and including Native Americans in the process is a powerful way to incorporate history into the everyday lives of Fort Worth residents, said Marjeanna Burge, a citizen of the Comanche Nation.

Despite the city branding itself as “where the West begins” Native Americans have historically not been included in discussion about preserving Fort Worth’s history, Burge said.

“Native Americans are usually called the invisible minority,” Burge said. “To see something publicly that acknowledges our existence is exciting… Native American people were the original inhabitants, but we are missing in the public eye, in the way of historical significance.”

Several suggestions included the names of notable Native American figures and tribes, including Wichita, Comanche and Tawakoni. Several residents suggested Quanah Parker Bridge; Parker was the last chief of the Quahada Comanche Indians.

“The name not only shines a light on little known Native American history but also plays into the “Western” culture of Fort Worth,” a response read.

Other respondents urged council members to honor notable Latino figures in the Fort Worth community, such as Paulie Ayala andPauline Gasca-Valenciano. People also suggested Dolores Huerta andSelena Quintanilla Pérez. Other suggestions include Spanish words such as Tejano, a word used to identify Texan Mexican Americans.

“Fort Worth lacks the representation of these individuals in the (Latino) community,” one respondent said. “The culture should be promoted and celebrated.”

Naming a bridge after significant local figures of Latino descent would help incorporate Mexican American history into the fabric of the city, Martínez said.

“I think it gives a bigger narrative and more significance to the legacy of the Mexican American people in the city of Fort Worth,” Martínez said.

Martínez offered his own suggestions of notable Texas Latinos, including Sam Garcia and Gustavo “Gus” Garcia.

Both Martínez and Burge urge city leaders to engage with Latino and Native American communities and allow them to discuss how best to represent their communities’ history through the naming of infrastructure.

Names of historical figures

Several anonymous respondents offered explanations for their submissions. One, who suggested the bridges be named after Gen. William Jenkins Worth, Father Esteban Jassoand Opal Lee said the bridges should be named after individuals who contributed to Fort Worth’s development.

“One dedicated to our traditional history, one to justice and equality, and another to our future moral purpose,” the respondent said.

Many other people suggested a single name. Some of the most popular answers include Louis Zapata Bridge. Zapata was the first Hispanic member of Fort Worth’s City Council.

“He was very instrumental in helping the Hispanic community prosper,” one response read.

Other suggestions included naming a bridge after Atatiana Jefferson. Former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean was recently found guilty of manslaughter in the death of Jefferson in her home Oct. 12, 2019. Fort Worth City Council will considerrenaming a community center in memory of Jefferson. The council meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 10.

“She deserves to be remembered,” a respondent wrote.

Army Staff Sgt. Bryan A. Burgess Memorial Bridge is another popular suggestion. Burgess, a Cleburne native, died March 29, 2011, while serving in Afghanistan.

“Please choose the North Main Bridge since Bryan loved to visit the Historic Stockyards every time he came home,” a response read.

Opal Lee and Leon Bridges were also popular suggestions.

Some submissions focused on themes. Residents suggested words with a Western flair such as Stockyards Road, Longhorn and Bluebonnet. Other submissions invoked values such as friendship and heritage.

Several submissions referenced criticism of the long-planned Central City Flood Control Project, also known as the Panther Island Project. The project recently received $403 million in federal funding, following decades of doubt about the handling of the massive flood control project.

Several respondents suggested “boondoggle” as the new name for the bridges.

Less serious submissions

Some didn’t approach the survey quite as earnestly. Some respondents stuck with suggesting historical figures. One, who suggested Bruce Lee, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D Roosevelt offered a simple explanation for their choices: “Just some cool people.” Hard to argue with that.

Another respondent turned to bribery to promote his suggestions of: Bridgey McBridgeface, Bridgey McBridgeface Jr. and Bridgey McBridgeface III.

“Please have mine win. Please. I’ll give you a hug,” the submission urged.

Another embraced Fort Worth’s long-standing rivalry with its neighbor to the east, suggesting: Dallas Sucks Bridge No. 1, Dallas Sucks Bridge No. 2 and Dallas Sucks Bridge No. 3. The respondent offered some wiggle room, though.

“It’s more of a theme than anything,” they said. “Feel free to run with it.”

Some suggestions sought to memorialize events, including: “U2 @ Tarrant County Convention Center 1987 Memorial Bridge.”

The proposer offered this as an explanation: “Go, bridges!”