Imagine hiking across Austin on a trail that is twice the size of the Barton Creek Greenbelt. This picturesque vision — many years in the making — is finally coming to fruition with the construction of the Violet Crown Trail. One year after the first 6-mile segment opened to the public, we take a look at the progress on Central Texas' only regional trail system.
The project, helmed by nonprofit Hill Country Conservancy, has been in the works since 1999. When completed, the trail will wind across two counties and connect multiple Central Texas neighborhoods, shopping centers, parks, and schools. The route will span 30 miles from Barton Springs Pool in Zilker Park to the Water Quality Protection Lands in Hays County.
The open stretch of Violet Crown Trail travels from the Zilker Trailhead south along the Barton Creek Greenbelt for more than four miles. From there, a dirt path leads to the new 290 Trailhead.
The second segment of the trail (from U.S. Route 290 through residential areas of Southwest Austin to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center) was originally slated to be finished by the end of this year. However, the opening has been pushed back to the end of 2017.
"This is actually somewhat of a blessing in disguise — the material we are using as the base for the trail for this next seven miles is called StaLok, which takes natural decomposed granite and transforms it into a paving material. This helps keep the trail from washing away and is incredibly durable, yet permeable," said HCC in a statement.
Originally, Stabilizer Solutions, the company that makes StaLok, planned to ship the material from its headquarters in Phoenix. However, the team is building a plant in Marble Falls, which will save HCC over $100,000 in transportation costs, but it will take more time.
The delay on the second segment hasn't affected the timeline for the third and final leg, which will continue the trail through the wildflower center and down into the Water Quality Protection Lands. This phase will be significantly easier to build out, as the trail will be natural and not StaLok. Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2018.
The team hopes that the entire trail will debut in two to three years. Austinites can get involved by becoming a member of the Violet Crown Trail; annual memberships start at just $50. HCC is also coordinating a volunteer event around National Public Lands Day on September 24 and is inviting everyone to the 10th annual Hill Country Nights gala at Fair Market on September 23.
HCC is in the midst of a three-year capital campaign to fund the second segment. The campaign, which ends in May 2017, has raised $11.4 million, 87 percent of the $13.125 million goal.