Fort Worth's Lake Worth is celebrating its 100th birthday this month.
In the last 100 years, Lake Worth has transformed from a popular beach resort to a recreational lake that is home to hundreds of homeowners, the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge and acres of undeveloped land, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Saturday. And today there are ongoing debates about how much more land should be developed.
In the early 1910s, the city spent $1.5 million to acquire land and construct a dam along the West Fork of the Trinity River. When an unexpected deluge hit North Texas in August 1914, the new lake was born.
Fort Worth purchased all of the shoreline surrounding the lake as it was being built and since then city leaders have managed the development.
By 1917, a bathing pavilion and public beach opened at Casino Beach. The 5,430-acre lake with about 40 miles of shoreline would remain popular through the 1920s and '30s as campgrounds and picnic areas popped up.
Casino Beach featured a boardwalk, ballroom and amusement park, complete with a state-of-the-art roller coaster that stretched 72 feet skyward. But after World War II, fewer people came to the lake. Eventually, the boardwalk collapsed.
Lake Worth sat quietly for years, mostly ignored, and silt made much of the lake unnavigable. But dredging, which began in 2012 and ended earlier this year, has enhanced the lake's recreational appeal.
For years, the city leased land to homeowners, but in 1997 the city began allowing the lake dwellers to purchase their property. Today, there are 79 leases left around the lake.
Arlington real estate lawyer Mike Patterson is pursuing plans to redevelop Casino Beach. Last year, Patterson reached an agreement with the city to purchase 15.7 waterfront acres for $1.8 million and lease 39 city-owned acres.
Patterson said he hopes to start the first phase by next summer, which would include the construction of two or three restaurants and 200 boat slips.
"Selfishly, I don't want anybody else to come out here," Johnny Simons, 75, told the newspaper. Simons spent time during his childhood on the lake and recently moved back to Lake Worth for the third time. "I don't want to become Disneyland."
Lake Worth homeowner Joe Waller, former president of the Lake Worth Alliance, said he hopes the Casino Beach development gets off the ground, but he's concerned about development on other city-owned land around the lake.
There are about 4,545 acres of parkland around Lake Worth, including 3,240 acres inside the Nature Center. The Fort Worth Water Department still owns 950 acres of land around Lake Worth.