Blocking the path

Austin residents urged to stay off hike-and-bike trail during COVID-19 shutdown

Austin residents urged to stay off hike-and-bike trail during COVID-19

Austin hike and bike trail hiking
The Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail is open, but caution is urged.  The Trail Foundation/Facebook

After city and county officials made the unprecedented decision to issue shelter in place orders for Austin and Travis and Williamson counties, many locals are wondering if the city's most popular hike-and-bike trail will remain open. The answer is ... technically yes, but that doesn't mean you should use it.

On March 24, just hours before Austin's stay home/work smart order goes into effect, the Trail Foundation issued a press release urging locals to stay off the Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail. The foundation admittedly doesn't have the authority to shut down the trail, but the nonprofit is urging locals to stick closer to home for the next few weeks. 

"The Trail Foundation recommends that you stay in and exercise as close to your own home as possible," says the release, adding that parts of the trail make it tricky to keep the suggested six feet of social distancing. 

“According to our trail counters, usage on the trail has not decreased in the past two weeks,” says the foundation's CEO, Heidi Anderson, in a release. “And as local media has reported and we’ve observed, many people are not practicing social distancing and other critical steps to avoid spreading the coronavirus.” 

For those who do venture out on the 10-mile loop around Lady Bird Lake, the foundation offers the following tips: 

  1. For outside exercise, the best idea is to stay close to home. Wherever you are, make sure to practice social distancing (at least six feet away from any other person).
  2. Don’t leave home if you are ill or exhibiting any symptoms such as a fever, cough, or shortness of breath.
  3. Practice trail etiquette: alert others to your presence by saying “on your left” when you pass.
  4. Step aside to let others pass.
  5. Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer frequently.
  6. Exercise equipment will not be available to use during this time; restrooms and water fountains remain open for now, but the foundation highly recommends not using them as it's not possible to guarantee safe levels of hygiene.

“Our message to those who love the trail is this: it will be there for us when this season passes," Anderson continues. "Now is the time to let the trail rest while we do. We need to do our part, stay home, take care of ourselves and our families, and also the larger community.”