Riparian Area Initiative

How can Fort Worth protect the areas around our streams, rivers and lake shores?

What are riparian areas?

Riparian areas are ecosystems that occur along streams, rivers, and lake shores where vegetation is strongly influenced by the presence of water.


Initiative Background

Fort Worth is the fastest-growing large city in the country. It encompasses 348.24 square miles, not including the extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ), and has 63,986 acres of undeveloped land.  

This rapid growth has brought rapid development, which can create challenges for our watersheds. The City has partnered with FUSE, an organization that designs executive fellowships to help local governments address pressing challenges. Through this program, the City is exploring options to better protect these areas around our streams and rivers. 

Why are riparian areas so important?

The areas around streams, rivers, and lake shores provide many benefits to people, wildlife, and property. These riparian areas:   

  • Provide flood, erosion and sedimentation control 

  • Filter stormwater runoff and pollutants 

  • Protect tree canopy and reduce urban heat island  

  • Preserve habitat and wildlife corridors  

  • Are linear green spaces with opportunities for trail connections for recreation  

  • Support community mental and physical health through access to green spaces 

  • Provide natural amenities that residents are looking for and enhance property values 

  • Promote economic opportunities through trail-oriented development 

How can we protect Riparian Areas?

The main goal of the Riparian Area Initiative is to update the City’s Subdivision Ordinance to include protection for the areas around our streams and rivers. This will help mitigate downstream impacts of development and reduce the need for costly infrastructure in the future.


Riparian buffers are setbacks that restrict development within a certain distance of a stream, river, or lake shore. Buffers help preserve riparian areas in their natural state. The City of Fort Worth is exploring buffer options around riparian areas with our Riparian Area Initiative stakeholders to ensure these spaces can continue to provide benefits to our communities.



Development Incentives

Development incentives help mitigate the loss of buildable land to the property owner or developer. Incentives can include a wide range of strategies depending on the specific property, zoning, and type of development. These include density and height bonuses, increased tree canopy preservation and park dedication credits, and reduced parking and minimum street width requirements. Through the Riparian Area Initiative incentives, the City is encouraging mixed-use development, the construction of pedestrian trails, and walkable, green communities.


Recognizing the Value of Riparian Areas

In addition to the environmental benefits, riparian areas have monetary benefits for residents and businesses. Developments that preserve riparian green space, especially those that incorporate amenities like trails, are more desirable and tend to maintain higher property values. 

On average, home prices increase:  

  • 20% – adjacent to passive park

  • 32% – next to a larger and longer greenbelt area for hiking and biking

  • 22% – near tree-covered undeveloped area

  • 37% – near heavily wooded open land

Businesses along pedestrian trails also benefit economically from trail-oriented development. Local examples of the economic benefits of trails include: 

  •  The Mineral Wells to Weatherford Rail-Trail attracts approximately 300,000 people annually and generates local revenues of $2 million. - Economic Benefits of Trails and Greenways, 2003
  • The $23 million capital investment to build the 3.5-mile Katy Trail has resulted in approximately $907 million in Park-Oriented Development. In Uptown and Oak Lawn, approximately $880,000 in real estate value per acre has been created over the previous 18 years. This figure jumps to $1.9 million within a ¼ mile of the 3.5-mile Katy Trail. - Economic Value and Benchmarking Study of the Dallas Park System, February 2016



Initiative Timeline

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Public Engagement

As part of the process of updating the Subdivision Ordinance, the City is engaging the public in a series of open house meetings this spring:  Spring Open House 2024

You can view recorded stakeholder meetings and presentations below.

Stakeholder Meeting #1 – 02/29/2024

*Audio did not record at this meeting, so the presentation is provided



Related Initiatives

The City is currently pursuing multiple initiatives that protect green space: