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Park closes for interstate expansion project

Profile image for By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer
By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer

Copperas Branch Park in Highland Village has closed its doors to the public through late 2016.

The move was done in conjunction with the imminent start of the 35Express, the Interstate 35E expansion project. AGL Constructors, the highway construction firm, will be using the park as a staging area.

The park’s closure will eventually result in a newly renovated park for the public to enjoy when it reopens.

“We understood it was going to happen,” City Manager Michael Leavitt said. “When you look at the impact out there with the [Denton County Transportation Authority] train on the east side of 35, there was only one direction expansion was going to happen and that was in the park.

“The scenario of this massive construction project, having a part that was going to be ground zero for all the activities, it’s not a good scenario to entice the public to be around a very active construction zone,” he said. “Separation from the public was in everyone’s best interest and safety.”

Copperas Branch Park, which the city leases from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will be impacted when the Texas Department of Transportation begins the improvements to I-35E.

The 74-acre park is adjacent to I-35E on the south side of Lewisville Lake and is used by the city and the region for recreation, special events and leisure.

The 35Express project will add reversible managed lanes, general-purpose lanes and frontage roads along the Interstate 35E corridor between U.S. Highway 380 in Denton County and Interstate 635 in Dallas County.

The project will also increase the capacity of several bridges, including FM407, Garden Ridge Road, Post Oak Road and Corinth Parkway.

The $1.4 billion project is funded through federal, state and local resources as well as State Highway 121 regional toll funds dedicated to Denton County.

Construction of the 35Express project is managed by AGL Constructors, a joint venture partnership between Archer Western Contractors LLC, Granite Construction Inc. and The Lane Construction Corp. in partnership with the design team of Parsons and HDR Inc.

Leavitt, who has been with Highland Village for 14 years, said officials began looking back in 2000 at potential impact scenarios from the expansion of I-35E and what it meant for the park.

Officials also began planning for renovations to take place at the park once the interstate construction work is done and has moved on, he said.

Renovations will include new sports fields, picnic areas, a trail head connecting Copperas Branch with Copperas Branch East, additional parking under the lake bridge and restored beach areas. In addition to the improvement to the park, a new shared path for pedestrians and bicyclists will be built across the bridge.

Earlier this year, the Highland Village City Council authorized Leavitt to sign off on an agreement between TxDOT and the city for $3.5 million in park mitigation.

Based on the lost revenues at Copperas Branch Park, the Corps of Engineers requires a portion of the funds — $641,834 — be used for Corps-leased areas, which are Copperas Branch Park or Pilot Knoll Park. City officials plan to use the remaining $2.8 million for the development of Doubletree Ranch Park.

While the exact renovation configurations could change in the next few years until construction begins, Leavitt said the additions they outlined to the Corps of Engineers, TxDOT and the public will be done.

Leavitt said he knows the closure is disappointing to the boating community, since the park has one of the best boat ramps and parking facilities for Lewisville Lake, but it is an opportunity to push Pilot Knoll Park, northwest of Copperas.

“We have great boat access, [and] even more features to the [Pilot Knoll] park — camping, day facilities,” he said. “Yes, we’re losing Copperas here for a while, but now we’re trying to educate everyone that we have this other park. Go try it out.”

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.