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Resolution promises further development at Onion Creek park

Monday, December 6, 2021 by Kali Bramble

Southeast Austinites can look forward to renovations at District 2’s Onion Creek Metropolitan Park, thanks to a resolution passed by City Council this past Thursday.

The resolution, sponsored by Council Member Vanessa Fuentes, calls upon city management to explicitly outline plans for the park that have long been discussed by Council and the Parks and Recreation Department.  

“It’s kind of bittersweet for us in the southeast because the hundreds of acres of the floodplain that make up this park were areas that were flooded, causing hundreds of families to be displaced,” Fuentes said. “What we have here is an opportunity to turn this sad moment of our history into something beautiful.”

The 555-acre plot of land making up Onion Creek park was purchased by the city in the late 1990s, but sat undeveloped for many years due to a lack of funding. In 2013, the 83rd Texas Legislature revitalized the project with the creation of a municipal management district, designed to finance development through property taxes.

Since establishment of the district, the parks department has worked alongside the Onion Creek District Board of Directors and Goodnight Ranch development company to invest in the park’s development. Taxes levied from the rapidly growing planned unit development have reinvigorated the once underfunded project, which the city now hopes to transform into a destination nearly twice the size of Zilker Park

The project is an impressive turnaround for the area, which sits atop one of the city’s most vulnerable floodplains and is the site of catastrophic floods that destroyed thousands of homes and took the lives of 13 people in 2013 and 2015. Flood mitigation tactics, including buyout programs for the watershed’s most at-risk homes, have cleared additional space for redevelopment into parkland.

The Onion Creek Metropolitan Park Master Plan, published by the parks department and Austin Parks Foundation in 2015, consists of an ambitious set of capital projects including hike-and-bike trail networks, recreation facilities, educational centers, and horseback riding trails. While much progress has been made in the form of improved accessibility and open field space, only a fraction of these plans have been realized.

Thursday’s resolution asks the city manager to update Council on available funding for further implementation of the Onion Creek master plan, with specific directives to improve irrigation and lighting for the park’s restroom and water fountain facilities. It also calls for further public engagement via regular updates on the construction of park amenities on the city’s website.

“We want to make sure that we dedicate resources and attention to fulfilling this vision plan,” Fuentes said. “Once developed, this park will be the crown jewel of Southeast Austin.”

City management will return to Council with next steps for Onion Creek Metropolitan Park before next April. In the meantime, check for updates here.

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