PELICAN BAY, TEXAS. Pelican Bay is a small community along Eagle Mountain Lake in the northwestern corner of Tarrant County and about seventeen miles northwest of Fort Worth.
The town was born of one man’s desire to build a friendly community.
In 1970, Olen Yandell owned a struggling dairy farm called the Circle-Y, just north of Azle, off FM 730, next to Eagle Mountain Lake.
On the land that his 150 cows grazed, Olen Yandell envisioned making his own Sausalito. Sausalito is a waterfront resort community near San Francisco. There would be shops, a sailing school, a riding club, a recreation center with a pool.
“I pictured, well, a retirement community, but not just a retirement community. I just wanted it to be a friendly place with nice people,” said Yandell.
Yandell named his 148-acre development Pelican Bay, after Pelican Island, southeast of the shore. The tiny island got its name, residents say, from the birds that flocked around it before a big storm whipped their feathers off, turning the bay into a sea of white and gray. No one can say when that was, but it was before Olen Yandell had his vision.
Yandell sold some lots, but interest rates rose, and his company went bankrupt within five years. Lot by lot, Pelican Bay was sold at auction.
The early settlers of Pelican Bay were governed by a homeowners association, until the need for better roads and law enforcement led to a series of petition drives and, eventually, an incorporation election. Over the objections of Fort Worth and Azle – which saw the community as a target for expansion – residents voted by a 3-1 ratio to become a city.
Pelican Bay incorporated Aug. 8, 1981. Ruth Howard, who led the petition drives, became the first mayor.
Despite multiple obstacles, Pelican Bay persevered but not quite as the resort community Olen Yandell envisioned almost 37 years ago.
Today, Pelican Bay still looks a lot like it did in the early days with a mix of site built and manufactured homes. Long time residents have raised multiple generations here at the ‘Bay and more recent residents have discovered this secret oasis outside the Metroplex. The city park has been remodeled with a new playground, a swim beach was opened at the lake on leased land and other projects are in the works. Years go by but some things still hold true to Olen Yandell’s vision, we are a friendly place to live with nice people.
History written by local Pelican Bay historian, Larry Leach