Arlington Heights Neighborhood Association took home the top honor as Fort Worth’s “2007 Neighborhood of the Year” at the Annual Neighborhood Workshops and Awards Luncheon sponsored by the City of Fort Worth and the Fort Worth League of Neighborhood Associations on Saturday February 9. Mayor Mike Moncrief delivered the keynote address.

This is the first time for AHNA to receive the city’s most prestigious neighborhood award which includes a $200 cash prize and a plaque. Cited for having the best combined social, physical and collaborative revitalization efforts, AHNA was recognized for its comprehensive programs, including re-zoning 600 single-family homes from Two-Family/Duplex zoning to Single Family zoning, the 9th annual Thanksgiving potluck dinner, publication of the 2007 Directory of Neighborhood Businesses, establishing the first historic district in Arlington Heights, the New Neighbor Welcome Bag program, gas drilling education events, the street topper program, along with a number of other activities.

Other winners included Fairmount Neighborhood Association which received the “Fort Worth Pride” award for its physical revitalization efforts. Lake Worth Alliance received the “Community Collaboration” award for its efforts to clean up Lake Worth. Hulen Heights Homeowners Association took the “Spirit of Fort Worth” award for its social revitalization efforts in the spirit of neighborliness. David Thrapp of Fairmount Neighborhood Association was given the “Ben Ann Tomayko Good Neighbor” award for going above and beyond in his years of service to neighborhoods.

Preceding the luncheon, educational workshops designed to give neighborhoods the tools they need to maintain successful organizations were presented by staff members from the City of Fort Worth. The annual event is co-sponsored by the Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods, an independent, voluntary umbrella organization of Fort Worth neighborhood groups. Based on the belief that neighborhoods should be involved in the civic decision making process, the League was formed in 1985 to create a strong voice at City Hall for neighborhoods throughout the city. There are 255 neighborhood associations currently registered with the City of Fort Worth.

The Neighborhood of the Year award comes as the result of many years of work by many, many volunteers. Through their efforts, both big and small, and through the guidance and thoughtful decisions made by each year’s AHNA Executive Committee, our neighborhood has come of age and is now officially recognized as having an outstanding neighborhood organization.

Arlington Heights Neighborhood Association is one of the oldest registered neighborhood associations in the city. It was established in the 1970s by a group of neighbors, including James Toal, a founding principal and co-chairman of Gideon Toal, a local urban design and planning powerhouse. Since then, AHNA dissolved and re-organized several times.

The current organization was re-established by a small group of neighbors in September 1999. Monthly meetings were initially held in the library of South Hi-Mount Elementary School, but soon moved to Arlington Heights United Methodist Church where they are still held every third Monday evening of the month. Crime reports from the Neighborhood Patrol Officer and educational guest speakers are longstanding AHNA meeting mainstays.

AHNA’s mandate is to provide support and advocacy to the Arlington Heights community at large. Serving as a resource and clearinghouse of information, AHNA helps neighbors navigate their way through neighborhood problems, such as speeding traffic, flooding, crumbling sidewalks, and incompatible new development. AHNA also helps to resolve neighbor-to-neighbor problems like overgrown alleys, trespassing cats and felled trees.

Since 2000, the association has published a bi-monthly newsletter that is mailed to AHNA members. As a community outreach effort, once a year the newsletter is hand delivered by neighborhood volunteers to all the 2,500 households within the association’s boundaries, whether they are members or not.

Every August AHNA supports Neighborhood Patrol Officer David Miller and the AHNA Citizens on Patrol in their National Night Out celebration which has turned into a major community event with ten Camp Bowie restaurants contributing food, a deejay, an inflatable jumping platform for the kids, and the Fort Worth Firefighters with their fire truck.

One of the highlights on the AHNA calendar is the annual Thanksgiving potluck dinner that is open to all neighbors and adjacent neighborhood associations, not just AHNA members. In 2007, Margo Dean, legendary Fort Worth ballerina and teacher for fifty years, spoke about her career and presented a short performance, featuring members of her ballet company. Mayor Mike Moncrief was the guest speaker in 2006.

The New Neighbor Welcome Bag program is another on-going AHNA project. Using a real estate database, more than 100 bags were delivered by volunteers to new neighbors in 2007. The bags are assembled by AHNA volunteers who fill them with free items donated from neighborhood businesses.

AHNA’s Zoning Committee convenes monthly to consider upcoming zoning cases in the AHNA boundaries and to provide advice and advocacy to the residential neighbors who are dealing with zoning changes in their immediate area. When necessary, members of the Zoning Committee make presentations on behalf of the neighbohood to the Zoning Commission, Board of Adjustment and City Council on behalf of residential neighbors.

Speeding is a common complaint throughout our neighborhood. To address that and other related problems, the AHNA Traffic Committee has spent several years developing a Neighborhood Traffic Plan which is in the process of being adopted through the petition process required by the City of Fort Worth.

Using membership dues, AHNA has purchased and installed more than 50 neighborhood association street toppers throughout the neighborhood over the last several years.

Thomas Place Community Center is a pet AHNA project. Built in 1924, the historic brick structure was designed as a school and is the second oldest standing school in Arlington Heights. It now serves as a community center with classes for adults and children and includes an outdoor playground. In 2006, AHNA member Meda Kessler filled the empty plant beds surrounding the building with native plants. In 2007, members of Christ Chapel Bible Church re-installed the plant borders and dug holes and planted eleven trees donated by AHNA members. Thomas Place Community Center is often at the top of the list of community centers that the City of Fort Worth is considering to close, so AHNA works hard to do what it can to keep the center open and full of activity.

As a member of the West Side Alliance, AHNA works with five other west side neighborhood associations (Crestwood, Crestline, North Hi Mount, Monticello and West Byers) on zoning, growth and quality of life issues. AHNA also co-sponsors with other nearby neighborhood associations community information events on urban gas leases and is coordinating a neighborhood gas lease.

Since 2003, AHNA has worked in conjunction with Crestline Area Neighborhood Association (CANA) to commission a master plan for Camp Bowie Blvd. between Montgomery St. and I-30. Recognizing the importance of Camp Bowie as an historic commercial corridor, the two neighborhoods that border it formed the Camp Bowie Council to encourage its vitality and to insure that its future will move in a positive direction.

In 2007, members of AHNA were invited by Councilman Carter Burdette to serve on the Ad Hoc Montgomery St. Committee which was was charged to make recommendations for the future development of Montgomery St., an important gateway to the Cultural District on the eastern border of AHNA.

A city without neighborhoods would be just a bunch of buildings. Maintaining neighborhoods requires constant vigilance on the part of the people that live in them. And it takes a lot of work. As you can see AHNA is involved in many aspects of the neighborhood. There are always opportunities for volunteers. So, if you have the desire to pitch in, even if it’s for a single afternoon, please let us know and we’ll find something for you to do.