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Bridging the Gap

A group of North Texas equestrians celebrated the start of construction on the bridge needed to restore the Greenbelt trail near the crossing site at the Elm Fork of the Trinity River.

Representatives and officials from the Greenbelt Alliance, the Lake Ray Roberts Equestrian Trail Association, Texas Parks and Wildlife, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Denton County, including County Judge Mary Horn, participated in the groundbreaking ceremony on June 30.

“I just want to congratulate the success of our public/private partnership,” said Richard Rogers, chairman of the Greenbelt Alliance. “We’ve worked together as a team of conservationists with a heart for the Greenbelt. We’ve worked hard and succeeded in our goal to preserve the Greenbelt, our region’s natural treasure.”

All funding for construction is available. Ray Roberts Lake State Park Superintendent Chris True said the bridge could be complete by fall, depending on weather.

“Although it’s taken six years, I think those six long years have been instrumental in forming a lot of tremendous relationships,” True said. “You just don’t do that overnight.”

The Greenbelt equestrian trail provided a unique service for local riders looking for long-distance trail rides and endurance race training. The 26-mile trail from U.S. 380 to Ray Roberts Lake north of Pilot Point was by far the longest trail in the area until 2010, when heavy rains washed out a culvert in a section of the trail between FM 455 and FM 428.

The section has been impassable since then, leaving riders with only out-and-back options from either end of the trail.

“The concrete caused turbulence in the water that ate away the shores, caused the shores to fail and it was unsafe for the equestrians to pass through and the trail was closed,” Rogers said in a speech at the ceremony.

Texas Parks and Wildlife called a meeting about the trail’s condition after the washout. The equestrian community turned out in droves.

“The plan at that time was to close the equestrian trail on the east side and combine it with the bike trail,” Rogers said. “It was a reasonable plan, but the equestrians said our horses aren’t reasonable. They don’t like bicycles.”

The riding community got organized in 2012 and formed LRRETA. Members wrote grants to secure funding for a construction project that would restore the trail to its full distance and stand completely out of the path of any future floodwaters.

“What we wanted was something sustainable that we would be coming in every 10 years after the next 100-year flood as things work out and replacing it,” Rogers said.

Four years of cutting through red tape later, the volunteers have successfully navigated the bureaucracy that comes with a construction project on federal property.

After LRRETA members Tracy Mattern and Linda Moore began writing grants, the association was awarded $132,313 from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, $35,000 from the Judy Odem Fund, and $5,000 from CoServ Electric. Funds raised from the annual Greenbelt Alliance’s Greenfest also went toward the project.

Engineering, design, soil samples, surveys and environmental impact studies had to be complete and approved by multiple agencies before the TPWD grant money could be released and construction complete. That day has come.

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