Almost nine tons of trash (18,000 pounds) were cleaned up at Glenwood Park in south Fort Worth on TCU’s annual Day of Service. Despite the overcast and wet conditions, 46 TCU student volunteers and 37 community volunteers, some of whom were TCU faculty and staff, volunteered on TCU Service Day to help create a climate-safe neighborhood.
“It feels really good to help out my community and get involved,” said Plez Transou, a movement science major. “It’s really good to be able to give back to the community as a school and get really connected and involved in Fort Worth.”
In partnership with TCU Nursing, School of Science and Engineering, Burnett School of Medicine, Bob Schieffer College of Communication and AddRan College of Liberal Arts, the Fort Worth Climate Safe Neighborhood Coalition hosted the park cleanup and health fair event to increase equitable access to safe and sustainable green space, advancing tree equity and extending environmental knowledge throughout Fort Worth. The Coalition is made up of multiple community partners: the Historic Southside Neighborhood Association (HSNA), TCU, the city of Fort Worth, Tarrant County Public Health and the Cross Timbers Master Naturalist Chapter.
“Our interest began in 2019 wanting to promote greenspace in the city, wanting to prescribe nature,” said Gina Alexander, associate professor in nursing. “People tend to equate health care with medication and treatments, very expensive and not sustainable; our health care system prioritizes a down-stream approach and rescuing people. Public health and primary care prioritize an up-stream approach through health promotion, prevention and people being outdoors, in nature, off their screens, engaged in the fresh air.”
Students, faculty and staff members from across TCU joined to help clean up Glenwood Park. “There are currently 37 acres not being utilized for greenspace or recreation,” said Alexander, “and neighbors report that homeless encampments and criminal activity at night are a deterrent to community members feeling safe to use it.”
Along with members of the Fort Worth community, volunteers walked around the banks of the creek, picking up trash and learning about the history of Southside Fort Worth.
“Seeing all these people around me really just fills me with energy, knowing we’re all here for the same cause. Seeing the park improve bit by bit puts a smile on my face and is encouraging me to work harder,” said Abraham Morales, an economics major.
The health fair included the TCU Institute of Behavioral Research’s (IBR) new Mobile Health Unit and the Tarrant County Public Health mobile operations unit, which provided COVID-19 vaccinations at the event. The TCU Mobile Health Unit is not yet available in the community, but it is available to those enrolled in the IBR research project. ACTION, which stands for “Addressing Risk Through Community Treatment for Infectious Disease and Opioid Use Disorder Now Among Justice-Involved Populations” is a research project focused on addressing gaps along the service and prevention cascade of care by connecting them to community resources.
Booths were also on-site to provide community resources, such as voter registration; get input from community members on Glenwood Park improvements; and provide education on the value of biodiverse, climate-resilient nature and green space that the entire community can enjoy.
Some Coalition members, particularly the HSNA, have advocated for park and greenspace improvements for several years and recall a time when Glenwood Park was a family-friendly, outdoor retreat for the surrounding community.
“In the heat of the day, you could come here, put your blankets out and have picnics. Nobody bothered anybody. Music would be playing,” said Johnny Lewis, vice president of the HSNA. “These trees have seen some good times.”
Ultimately, the Coalition would like to develop a master plan for park amenities. This plan would include an improved playground, a renovated pavilion, additional pavilion areas, some tennis and volleyball courts, a walking and nature trail, a dog park, more picnic tables and more lighting.
Their next event is a celebration of Earth Day, tentatively scheduled for Saturday, April 22, 2023, with an alternate date of April 15. If you are interested in joining the Coalition, you may reach out to Gina Alexander, Vicki Brooks, Tammie Williams, or any of the partners mentioned above.