March 18-21, 1993: A Weekend in South Texas
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January 9, 1993
A Visit to the Water Gardens in Fort Worth

 

Today, Fred and I have come over to Ft. Worth to go to the IMAX theater at the Science Museum near the Will Rogers Exposition Grounds. We also wanted to stop in to the Amon Carter museum. We saw "Ring of Fire" in the IMAX theater, and while it was good, it wasn't as good as some of the productions I have seen elsewhere. The Amon Carter museum was very interesting; there is a large collection of art with an old West theme, and Fred likes that a lot.

Fred also wanted to show me one of Fort Worth's prime attractions- the Water Gardens- which are located in downtown Fort Worth.


We actually headed over to Fort Worth about nine in the morning, and after the IMAX Theatre, the Amon Carter Museum and some lunch, we arrived at the Water Gardens about one-thirty in the afternoon. Since I didn't take any pictures in the museums, I won't bother showing you where they are, leaving that for a future album page. Getting to the Water Gardens, however, and where they are located in Fort Worth, may be of interest to you.

Although there are many ways to get to Fort Worth from my house, the easiest is to head down Inwood to Stemmons Freeway and head northwest, turning west onto the Airport Freeway (Texas Highway 183). After we'd passed through the Mid-Cities, we angled off down to the center of Fort Worth on Texas Highway 121. (That highway actually winds all the way around north of Dallas all the way to McKinney, south of where Fred lives.)

Coming down into town from the northeast on Highway 121, we get on Interstate 35 south briefly and then turn off onto what is in effect an expressway ramp that dumps you into the north side of downtown Fort Worth; that's Texas Highway 280.


From there, we just drive a couple of blocks and then turn south on one of the city streets. The Water Gardens are eight or ten blocks to the south- easy to get to and relatively easy to find a place to park as well. Here is an aerial view of the Fort Worth Water Gardens:


The Fort Worth Water Gardens, built in 1974, is located on the south end of downtown Fort Worth between Houston and Commerce Streets next to the Fort Worth Convention Center (although I might point out that the current Convention Center was not built when we visited in 1993). The 4.3 acre Water Gardens were designed by noted New York architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee and were dedicated to the City of Fort Worth by the Amon G. Carter Foundation.

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Before we take a look at our pictures from the Water Gardens today, I'd like you to watch a movie clip. Only a year after the Gardens opened, the "active pool" was used as a filming location for the 1975 film Logan's Run. In the film, as the actors explain, it is part of some tidal energy generation scheme. The Gardens also appeared in the 1979 TV adaptation of The Lathe of Heaven, but only very briefly.

You don't have to run to your video library to see the Logan's Run clip; I have extracted it from my own copy of the movie, and all you have to do is use the player at left to watch it.

Having just watched that clip, we should probably take a look at the pictures we took in the "active pool." The active pool, named because of the multitude of stairstepped waterfalls that are constantly in motion, is the main attraction of the Water Gardens. Water cascades 38 feet down terraces and steps into a small pool at the bottom.


The active pool experience was built for people to walk down the terraced steps and experience the power, sounds and motion of water crashing around them. The steps seemed perfectly safe and a lot of fun to walk up and down, but, sadly, there are always people who can find a way to make anything dangerous. From my vantage point in 2015, I can report that it didn't take too long for someone to prove me right.

The Active Pool was temporarily closed to the public after four people died there on June 16, 2004. Three children and one adult drowned after one of the children fell in the pool. The parents, attending a Baptist Church convention across the street, actually told their kids to go across and play in the Water Gardens because the hotel pool was closed! And they did this after heavy rains had obviously increased the water flow and depth at the active pool in the gardens! They did not, however, know about a malfunction in the recirculating pump that was causing it to pump more rapidly than usual.

When the first child fell in (actually jumped in, reported many bystanders) she was instantly in trouble, and a second child (not the adult, mind you), reached out to help her but was pulled in as well. Then the adult jumped in (although it was later discovered that the adult could not swim) and, finally and for some unknown reason, the third child actually jumped in as well- perhaps thinking this was some bizarre baptism ritual.

Much of this was brought out in the controversy that followed the incident, and during the lawsuit (naturally) brought by the family of the children that drowned. Most people had the same view of the lawsuit as they did of the one brought against McDonalds by the woman who drove away from the drive-thru with a cup of scalding hot coffee in her lap, between her legs; they thought the parents were at fault for actually telling their kids to go play in the water feature.

A year later, the City of Fort Worth settled the lawsuit by paying the family $750,000. That wasn't the end of it, though. Apparently not satisfied with the depth of the pockets of the City of Fort Worth, the Chicago family's attorney turned right around and sued the architects of the Water Gardens, the two construction firms involved in building it and, for good measure, the manufacturer of the pump equipment. I do not know how those lawsuits turned out, but I know how I would have voted if on that jury.

The park was reopened on March 4, 2007 after being made safer by reducing the depth of the main pool from 9 ft to 2 ft. But all that was years in the future when we were wandering around.


Fred took another picture of me as we were walking around the water gardens (I am sorry to say that I neither brought my camera or had the presence of mind to take a couple of pictures of Fred), and you can see it at left.

We really enjoyed going up and down the steps of the active pool; they are in a winding, spiral relationship from the street level down into the pool, and if you watched the movie clip above, you can see the actors walking from the top to the bottom. From the active pool, we walked across the small park to the Meditation Pool.

The quiet, blue meditation pool is encircled with cypress trees and towering walls that are covered in thin plane of water that cascades almost 90 degrees down to the sunken blue water feature. The sound of the water on the walls evokes thoughts of a gentle rain shower.

We enjoyed wandering one of Fort Worth's attractions- this urban park is frequently billed as a "cooling oasis in the concrete jungle" of downtown. Its focal points are three pools of water and a terraced knoll, which helps to shield the park from the rest of the City. Before the park was built, a reconstruction of Interstate 30 moved it further from the park and more to the edge of downtown Fort Worth, and thus the park is a much quieter place than it might otherwise have been.

I enjoyed this little trip over to Fort Worth. As it turned out, Fred and I along with other of our friends, would return to Fort Worth and do many of the things we did today frequently as the years passed. You can use the links below to continue to another photo album page.


March 18-21, 1993: A Weekend in South Texas
Return to the Index for 1993