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Austin reopens 2 popular greenbelts as COVID-19 cases trend downward

Austin reopens 2 popular greenbelts as COVID-19 cases trend downward

Barton Creek Greenbelt_near 360 access_2015
Barton Creek Greenbelt will reopen on August 8 with a reservation system. Photo by Nicole Raney

Austin's temps are predicted to hit triple digits for the next 10 days, meaning many will be looking for ways to cool down. Austin's city-run pools, including Barton Springs and Deep Eddy, have been shut down for weeks, but the city is reopening two popular greenbelts to help residents beat the heat. 

On August 8, the City of Austin will reopen the Bull Creek and Barton Creek greenbelts, both of which closed on July 2 as the city's COVID-19 cases began to soar.

To begin, Barton Creek Greenbelt will open under a pilot capacity program, which is scheduled to last for at least the next five months. (Bull Creek will remain open to the public.)

As part of that program, the Barton Creek Greenbelt will open under a reservation system, much like city-run pools did earlier this summer when they reopened — then promptly closed again. To enjoy the waterway Thursdays through Sundays, residents must book a time using this city portal. Reservations are now live. Those without computer access may leave a voicemail at 512-974-6797.

In addition to limiting the number of people accessing the greenbelt, the Barton Creek pilot program may help curb many of the issues that have popped up as the greenbelt's popularity has climbed, such as "litter (including pet waste), erosion, trail damage, water quality issues, and injuries."

"Neighborhoods surrounding the residential entrances are particularly impacted by heavy traffic, public intoxication, and trash," the city said in a release. "By closely monitoring usage during the pilot program, Park Rangers will gather insight for future Barton Creek Greenbelt management strategies, educational opportunities and funding requirements."

Travis County coronavirus cases have been trending downward in recent days, a moment of optimism during what has been a brutal summer. Currently, Austin's seven-day moving average for hospital admissions — a key indicator for assessing the readiness of area hospitals — now sits 36, a dramatic drop from its high of 75.1 on July 8. 

Despite the downward trend, Austin Public Health announced on Friday, July 31, that it was not removing the city from its Stage 4 restrictions, saying "ICU capacity is still very limited, and APH needs to ensure that we do not reach capacity in the ICUs."

"Our priority has to be safety, and maintaining the highest level of public health," said Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority. "We've seen over and over again that when we rush to open things, if we don't have the appropriate protections in place, it leads to cases surging and shutting the City down again and we do not want to be in that situation moving into the fall.”