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Williamson Creek vision plan moves froward with OK from parks board

Tuesday, August 31, 2021 by Amy Smith

A rough-and-tumble segment of Williamson Creek in South Austin is on the road to restoration, cleanup and becoming a proper trail with amenities.

With the Parks and Recreation Board’s unanimous recommendation last week, the Central Williamson Creek Greenway Vision Plan can begin moving forward under the charge of the parks and the watershed departments. Consultants Community Powered Workshop and Asakura Robinson, along with a community working group, led the outreach and planning and design for the vision plan.

The Aug. 24 meeting of the parks board was a complete turnaround from the tone that dominated the board’s meeting in May, when emotions ran high due to a former board member’s unequivocal opposition to the vision plan she had helped initiate. Rather than vote on the proposal, the board decided to table the plan for reconsideration at a later date.

This time around, more residents signed up to speak in support of the plan and the board agreed the plan merited its recommendation.

The project will run about two miles east and west and encompass 58 acres along Williamson Creek, between Menchaca Road and South Congress Avenue – an area represented by City Council districts 2, 3 and 5. The acreage includes city-owned lots once occupied by homes damaged by horrific floods.

Other potential buyout properties figure into the vision plan, but if the targeted households choose not to participate in a city buyout, parts of the trail will follow a somewhat different path as a workaround, according to city documents. Regardless, the finished product will result in a fully connected and ADA-accessible trail that will feature mountain biking trails, a bring-your-own-hammock grove, a labyrinth, food forests, wildflower meadows, a music grove and other amenities.

David Foster, a longtime Southwood neighborhood resident, provided some historical context for the board, noting the decadeslong effort to create a connected trail along a clean creek.

“Having a clearly marked and well-maintained trail would be better for safety all around and would put eyes on the trail,” Foster said. “This is a big step forward in realizing a vision that dates back to at least the 1990s, and this is the vision of a connected system of hike-and-bike trails along Austin creeks that connect with Lady Bird Lake and the trails there,” he added, referring to his time spent with a nonprofit called Austin Metro Trails and Greenways. “It feels to me like it’s long overdue.”

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