In years past, the Shoal Creek Conservancy hosted an annual spring fundraising event called the Shoal Creek Social, featuring live music, food and drink, activities and a silent auction. It typically took place in a venue near the iconic creek, which is also home to the oldest hike-and-bike trail in Austin.
But this is 2020. The group canceled its spring social and now has planned a pandemic-appropriate alternative: Shoal Creek Social Distancing. The two-week giving campaign, which runs September 15-30, encourages Austinites to get out and enjoy the Shoal Creek Trail, celebrating this jewel from a safe distance.
Supporting Shoal Creek — from a distance
Digital and print maps will be available beginning September 15, and include a self-guided Digital Scavenger Hunt. Use it to walk, ride, or run along the creek any time during the two weeks and share photos of your "finds" — spots such as markers for an old quarry and cemetery, centuries-old oak trees, historic bridges, native plant meadows, moonlight towers, and springs. Participants can earn Shoal Creek Conservancy swag.
Outdoor pop-up sites offering goodies and refreshments happen on Saturday, September 19, at Duncan and Northwest District parks and Saturday, September 26, at Duncan and Seider Springs parks. Both events take place from 10 am to 2 pm.
Everyone who donates to the conservancy between September 15 and September 29 is entered for a chance to win prizes such as gift certificates from local vendors. A virtual happy hour on Tuesday, September 29, wraps up the event and announces the winners (register here).
Expanding through the heart of the city
Funds raised support the organization’s work improving the creek and trail running through the heart of the city. The Conservancy’s Trail Plan includes improvements to the existing 3.25 miles from Lady Bird Lake to 38th Street, and adding more trail north of 183. Ultimately, it calls for a total of 10 miles, linking Northern Walnut Creek Trail, the Domain and The University of Texas with downtown.
The Conservancy’s Watershed Action Plan has the ambitious goal of restoring Shoal Creek to a resilient and healthy waterway by addressing water quality, erosion, habitat, and spring flow.
Part of that effort, the new Creekside Neighbors Program, provides the 72,000 Austinites living along the 11 miles of Shoal Creek with the tools and resources to take an active role — sort of an all-hands-on-deck approach to the unique challenges of preserving water quality in an urban waterway. People who live in the creek’s watershed can, for example, help improve water quality by limiting their use of pesticides and fertilizers, which can accumulate in the creek and kill off aquatic life.
Through the program, the City of Austin will provide technical guidance to residents for ways to reduce their impact on the creek, such as reducing the amount of runoff from their yards by using less water. Other components include free landscaping items, rebates to homeowners for certain actions that help solve the creek’s water quality problems, and resources for neighbors to hold volunteer cleanups.
Ultimately, the conservancy hopes to return Shoal Creek to its former glory as a popular place to swim and fish. In the meantime, the trail offers plenty of socially distant outdoor activity and the social distancing event sweetens the pot.