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Dove Springs getting a new trail: Donde Corre el Agua

Tuesday, August 2, 2022 by Willow Higgins

In the summer of 2020, in the heart of the Covid-19 pandemic, Dove Springs community members began to wonder how they could better use a section of the local greenbelt that had become neglected. The unmarked trail, which is overgrown and enclosed by a 10-foot flood wall, was once actively maintained and a go-to river access point for residents in the mood for a stroll or a swim. Last week, project partners presented their proposal for a revamp of a section of the East Williamson Creek Greenbelt – which they’ve named Donde Corre el Agua (Where the Water Runs) – to the Parks and Recreation Board.

The project team has been working tirelessly over the past year to figure out how to transform the space. Dove Springs residents Blanca Ortíz, Elena Rodríguez and Enedina Sánchez, who initiated the project, teamed up with Frances Acuña of Go Austin/Vamos Austin and Bjørn Sletto, a UT architecture professor, and his class to pull together a 100-plus-page book that spells out how the project should be approached.

“The residents and students have been working every single weekend for a little bit more than a year so they could get the language that was needed to be included in this book so we could have a model for how to transform something that looks like (this) into something beautiful and doing it the right way by including the residents and including the neighbors,” Acuña said in her presentation to the parks board.

While some enjoy hiking the trail in its current wild state, steep drop-offs to the creek and eroded riverbanks have prevented neighbors from enjoying it the way they used to. The parcel used to be lined with houses that backed up to the creek, but after the area was hit by a flood, the houses were bought out and removed. Nonetheless, the area has a rich history and holds memories, especially for older residents, that the team worked to honor.

What they have in mind is a beautiful, well-maintained trail with flower gardens, a community garden, rest stops, picnic areas and a play area including swings and volleyball and basketball courts. The trail will also be adorned with murals that tell stories about the community.

“We prioritized culture preservation and conservation, making sure that the culture wasn’t lost in our community,” Acuña said. “We have been losing (our culture) little by little because of gentrification and displacement, but at least in this space, we were able to come together and see what the residents, between the youth and the older adults, highlighted that they wanted to see.”

Now that the community-activated project proposal is complete, the partners will move on to complete the Neighborhood Partnering Program application, which will include an estimate of the budget and zoning and permitting logistics. Then they’ll identify and begin to implement the project’s priorities. If they don’t secure the funding to complete the project in one sweep, they’ll steward their plan over time.

“This means a lot to the neighborhood because we have taken so much of our minds and our souls into this project,” Acuña said. “Dove Springs is an area that has been neglected and all the work the residents took and the students took to make this happen is something that is admirable for it to become a reality.”

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