Shaping the look of austin
The Trail Foundation: Making running bearable for 1.5 million people
There’s a group of folks in Austin quite literally moving dirt and rocks, planting trees, gently patting flower beds and shaping the look of Austin. The Trail Foundation, Austin is sure lucky to have you around.
I wouldn’t say I’m a mega-user of the trail, but I sure run on it often. Morning, afternoon (not in the summer though, sheesh), evening and yes, even a few nights, I’ve been pounding my feet on that trail. And don’t tell me you’ve never been on it.
At any given time I’m joined on one of my runs by people older than me running much faster than me, kids with helmets on bikes, dogs drooling and panting, groups and couples walking and talking and those herds of shirtless high school boys, who I definitely don’t look at because that would be creepy since I'm way older than them. Ask any resident who enjoys the outdoors, and they’ll name the trail as one of their favorite things about living in Austin. TTF's Board of Directors is headed by Susan Plettman Rankin, an avid runner and one organized lady, and with her are a group of folks varied in their careers (landscape architects, auditor, bankers, event planners, real estate agents and more) all united to help create a great place to enjoy nature, right in the heart of urban Austin.
Here are five things you didn’t know you should know about The Trail Foundation, an organization quietly shaping a big part of Austin, and many Austinite’s lives:
1) You’re walking on a lot of history. Hop back a mere 50 years and the area comprised of 10 miles of trail known as the Trail at Lady Bird Lake sure looked a lot of different. More like a barren wasteland without any pretty views and probably a really unpleasant walk. But after the river was damned and the lake was formed, that Texas beauty-maker Lady Bird Johnson, along with other familiar names like Ann Butler, Emma Long and Jim Pfluger, started the Town Lake Beautification Committee in 1971. They did a lot of awesome work. In 2003, the Town Lake Trail Foundation was formed to make sure their work stayed awesome and keeps getting better.
2) You’re walking (and running, biking and stroller jogging) alongside a helluva lotta people each year. The Trail Foundation estimates nearly 1.5 million folks visit the trail a year. That’s a lot of feet and wheels.
3) It’s not all just about making it pretty – it’s about functionality, too. With 1.5 million folks using the trail, it’s bound to show some wear and tear, sometimes more than the Austin Parks and Recreation can possibly keep up with. That’s why The Trail Foundation works with Austin Parks and Recreation, as well as other organizations hoping to help, to not only upkeep this beautiful area of Austin, but make it functional and safe for everyone.
4) The trail foundation is about getting things done. That nice place you stretch on and meet people, the Mopac Stretching Station? That’s the work of TTF. Then there are those awesome maps and signage along the trail. And the sleek mile markers. And that new, fancy circle at the Pfluger Bridge that most recently housed one of the “Play Me, I’m Yours” pianos. I for one have used the Miro Rivera Restrooms by the Mexican American Cultural Center many times. All these were completed due to the hard work and wrangling of The Trail Foundation. And you won’t believe the cool, future-esque stuff they have planned! You can read more about them here, but I personally can’t wait to run over some water if they complete a planned boardwalk addition.
5) There are ways you can help. You can join the Lady Bird Johnson Adopt-a-Garden Program and design, plant and tend your own garden along the trail. The Lady Bird Lake Cleanup Program allows you to show up for large scale clean-ups every other month and help clean up on the water or the shore, or Keep Austin Beautiful can get you set up if you just want to do a one-time clean-up. Each year they throw the Maudie's Moonlight Margarita Run and Gala that you can participate in. You can buy a commemorative brick the likes of which can be see at Lou Neff Point. And you can simply just donate what you can.