The Butler Hike and Bike Trail’s 10-mile loop around Lady Bird Lake has been called the heartbeat of Austin. It certainly gets the hearts of many Austinites beating as they walk, run, bike, or hang out there.
The Trail Foundation, a local nonprofit founded in 2003, deserves credit for many improvements and amenities on the trail, including lighting, tree and wildflower plantings, restrooms, signage, and overlooks. The organization works “in cooperation with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department to close the gap between what the city provides and what the Trail deserves.”
At its annual State of the Trail address on Friday, December 8, executive director Heidi Anderson announced that in honor of TTF’s 15th anniversary next year, the organization has selected 15 projects to work toward completing over the next five years. The projects are designed to help protect and enhance the trail as use continues to grow exponentially, with visits now exceeding 2.6 million per year.
The projects are subject to change due to funding, unforeseen issues, new opportunities or priorities, and other circumstances, but currently include:
- Creation of the Lakeshore Park Deck and Overlook, two new east side gathering spaces off Lakeshore Boulevard.
- A new, locally designed restroom at the intersection of Pleasant Valley and Lakeshore Boulevard.
- New Zilker Trailhead to address expected increased use around the Zilker Berms when parking moves from underneath MoPac to an adjacent lot in the park.
- Holly Point-Fiesta Gardens Water Access, a water access point on the anticipated 2019 realignment of the Trail along Holly Shore near the old power plant.
- A feasibility study of a boardwalk structure over the water at Lamar Boulevard and Cesar Chavez Street, one of the Trail’s few remaining potentially unsafe pinch points.
- A creative play space on the east side of the Trail.
- A Holly Shores Trailhead connection to the EastLink Trail at the Holly Shores Trail realignment.
- A new restroom at Festival Beach.
- A project to address storm water flow down the steep slope of parkland adjacent to the Four Seasons Hotel, with a possible future overlook deck along the Trail.
- Design of a trail under the First Street bridge to include an extended zone on each side of the area under the bridge and, potentially, seating, lighting, and artwork.
- Design and tree plantings to provide shade along the Holly Trail Enhancement, Austin PARD’s realignment of the Trail to the lake edge as part of the Holly Master Plan.
- Signage on the east side of the Trail and a comprehensive inventory of signs along the entirety of the Trail to ensure comprehensive, coordinated, and functional signage.
- Studies of West I-35, Longhorn Dam, and Holly/Lakeshore Peninsula bridges.
- A new trailhead at Pleasant Valley Road and Lakeshore Boulevard with gathering spaces and a water access point in a natural setting.
- Continuation of TTF’s ecological restoration program for the Trail and surrounding parkland ecosystems, using its Ecological Restoration Guidelines as reference.
TTF also announced the creation of the Canopy Fund to collect donations dedicated to the initial phases of each future project. Anderson said the goal is to ultimately grow the fund to $2 million.
Gia Biagi, Studio Gang’s principal of urbanism and civic impact, also discussed concepts for the Seaholm Waterfront project. The public can provide input for the project through December 18, and community engagement meet-ups in the space will follow next year.
Finally, TTF announced groundbreaking in early 2018 for a new bridge at Congress Avenue that will allow cyclists and pedestrians to safely pass and add space for watching the famous Mexican free-tailed bats.