From the names of famous Fort Worth residents to the classic “Bridge McBridgeface,” Fort Worth residents have submitted over 1,700 proposals to rename three bridges associated with the Panther Island Project.
Henderson Street Bridge, North Main Street Bridge, and White Settlement Bridge are all unofficial names. The city solicited proposals to rename the bridges in February 2022. Applications closed in March.
Ten months later, the Fort Worth City Council will review the naming proposals at an upcoming business meeting on January 24th. City staff will present the most popular topics of names submitted by residents. Michelle Gatt, Fort Worth’s director of communications, said the process of renaming the bridge was delayed as the city council focused on higher priority issues.
Renaming the bridges on Panther Island provides an opportunity to elevate famous figures from Fort Worth’s past, said Peter Martinez, professor of history at Tarrant County College.
“I think that would be awesome,” Martinez said.
Names will be reviewed by a committee composed of representatives 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 be put to a public vote, the city said.
The naming process has broader implications for White Settlement Road, which Mayor Matty Parker said could be changed prior to renaming the White Settlement Bridge.
“I think we will learn some lessons from this to decide if we are going to get on the White Settlement Road and when, and what it will look like,” Parker previously told the Report.
This week, Parker declined to comment on how the upcoming bridge renaming discussion could affect the renaming of White Settlement Road.
Pat Peterson, an Oklahoma Choctaw Nation citizen and founder of the Texas Intertribal Council, said she was disappointed by the lack of progress on renaming White Settlement Road.
The road is named after the town it leads to, White Settlement, surrounded by western Fort Worth. The name “White Settlement” refers to a group of settlers protected by soldiers in Fort Worth who drove the Indian tribes out of the area.
“I don’t know what needs to be done to get them up and moving and really getting things off the ground,” Petersen said. “I think it’s just not a priority at the moment.”
Naming public infrastructure after a city’s history and involving Native Americans in the process is a powerful way to bring history into the daily lives of Fort Worth residents, said Marianna Burge, a Comanche Nation citizen.
Even though the city is marketed as “where the West begins,” according to Burge, historically, Native Americans have not been involved in discussions about preserving Fort Worth’s history.
“Native Americans are commonly referred to as the invisible minority,” Burge said. “To see something public that acknowledges our existence is exciting… Native Americans were natives, but we are absent from the public eye due to historical significance.”
Several suggestions included the names of famous Indian figures and tribes, including the Wichita, Comanche, and Tawakoni. Several residents have suggested the Kuana Parker Bridge; Parker was the last chief of the Quahada Comanche Indians.
“The title not only sheds light on little-known Native American history, but also plays on Fort Worth’s ‘Western’ culture,” the response reads.
Other respondents called on council members to honor prominent Hispanic figures in the Fort Worth community such as Paulie Ayala and Pauline Gasca-Valenciano. People also suggested Dolores Huerta and Selena Quintanilla Perez. Other suggestions include Spanish words such as Tejano, a word used to refer to Texan Mexican Americans.
“In Fort Worth, these people are not represented in the (Hispanic) community,” said one respondent. “Culture must be promoted and celebrated.”
Naming the bridge after prominent local Hispanic figures will help incorporate Mexican-American history into the city’s fabric, Martinez said.
“I think it gives a broader narrative and more value to the heritage of the Mexican American people in the city of Fort Worth,” Martinez said.
Martinez offered his own proposals to notable Texan Latinos including Sam Garcia and Gustavo “Gus” Garcia.
Both Martinez and Burge encourage city leaders to engage with the Hispanic and Native American communities and allow them to discuss how best to represent their communities’ history through naming infrastructure.
Names of historical figures
Several anonymous respondents offered explanations for their views. One of those who suggested naming the bridges after General William Jenkins Worth, father of Esteban Jasso and Opal Lee, said the bridges should be named after people who contributed to Fort Worth’s development.
“One is dedicated to our traditional history, one is about justice and equality, and the third is about our future moral goal,” the respondent said.
Many other people have suggested one name. Some of the most popular responses include the Louis Zapata Bridge. Zapata was the first Hispanic member of the Fort Worth City Council.
“He has greatly contributed to the prosperity of the Hispanic community,” says one response.
Other suggestions included naming the bridge after Atatiana Jefferson. Former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean was recently found guilty of the manslaughter of Jefferson at her home on October 12, 2019. The Fort Worth City Council will consider renaming the community center in memory of Jefferson. The council meets at 6:00 pm on Tuesday 10 January.
“She deserves to be remembered,” the respondent wrote.
Army staff sergeant. The Brian A. Burgess Memorial Bridge is another popular proposal. Burgess, a Cleburne native, died on March 29, 2011 while serving in Afghanistan.
“Please select the North Main Bridge as Brian loved visiting the Historic Animal Farms every time he came home,” the response reads.
Opal Lee and Leon Bridges were also popular offerings.
Some materials were devoted to topics. Residents suggested words with Western flair such as Stockyards Road, Longhorn, and Bluebonnet. Other materials mentioned values such as friendship and heritage.
Several stories mentioned 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 after decades of doubt about how to handle the massive flood control project.
Several respondents suggested a new name for the bridges, “boondoggle”.
Less serious performances
Some didn’t take the survey so seriously. Some respondents settled on the proposal of historical figures. One of them, who suggested Bruce Lee, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, offered a simple explanation for their choice: “Just great people.” It’s hard to argue with that.
Another respondent resorted to bribery to promote their proposals: Bridgey McBridgeface, Bridgey McBridgeface Jr. and Bridgey McBridgeface III.
“Please let mine win. Please. I will hug you,” called the performance.
Another supported Fort Worth’s longstanding rivalry with its eastern neighbor, suggesting: Dallas Slop Bridge #1, Dallas Slop Bridge #2, and Dallas Slop Bridge #3. However, the respondent offered some wiggle room.
“This is more of a topic than anything else,” they said. “Feel free to run with him.”
Some proposals aimed to commemorate the events, including: “U2 Memorial Bridge at the 1987 Tarrant County Convention Center.”
The proposer offered this as an explanation: “Come, bridges!”