Park News

Austin dumps secret Zilker Park landfill with new renovation project

Austin dumps secret Zilker Park landfill with new renovation project

Austin City Limits Festival
Zilker Park will undergo an improvement project this summer that will turn a former landfill into a recreation area.  Austin City Limits Festival/Facebook

Here's a fun fact: part of Zilker Park sits on top of a landfill. In the 1960s, a former quarry on Stratford Drive near the west end of the park was turned into a dumping area for city garbage. Now, it is a prominent, yet rarely used, portion of the popular park. 

In the mid-20th century, the land was "capped" with layer of dirt ranging from three to six feet. Because of of environmental restrictions put in place when it was a dump, this parcel of land on the south side of the MoPac pedestrian bridge has been used primarily as an Austin Parks and Recreation service area. Now, thanks to a partnership with the Austin Parks Foundation, APRD, and Austin City Limits Fest organizers C3 Presents, the land will be reclaimed for use by all Austinites. 

The first goal of the project is to stabilize the area's current "cap" and turn it into all-weather terrain. (Anyone who has trekked through the area after a rainfall knows it definitely has a certain swampy je ne sais quois.) Engineers will also focus on reducing the amount of water that gets into the landfill and install a water quality control structure to minimize pollutants escaping into Lady Bird Lake. 

"Not only do they prevent further disruption and erosion of the landfill’s cap, but the improvements also address critical drainage issues,” said Colin Wallis, ​CEO of APF, in a release. “Our goal is to protect Zilker Park by giving the thousands of weekend visitors to the park, Zilker Botanical Gardens, Austin Nature and Science Center, and the Butler Trail a usable area under all weather conditions." 

Additional changes include new entrances along Stratford Drive (and, the city says, possibly Lou Neff Drive), as well as enhancements to the Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail. Austinites can look forward to new berm and trees planted along that portion of the trail, as well as capital improvements to eventually transition that area of the park into a trailhead. 

While the APD and the City of Austin did not give an expected cost for the improvements, the Austin-American Statesman is reporting that C3 is "kicking in" between $1.5-2 million for the upgrades. The project is slated to begin this summer and it expected to take a few months to complete.