From outdoor enthusiasts to history lovers, Austinites on Wednesday night met to plan the possible tripling of the length of the Shoal Creek Trail, which runs 3.25 miles from Lady Bird Lake to 38th Street.
“Imagine walking or biking on a continuous pathway from downtown Austin all the way up to the Domain,” said Joanna Wolaver, executive director of the Shoal Creek Conservancy.
The gathering at the Cirrus Logic Conference Center downtown was the first of a series of Shoal Creek Vision to Action Trail Plan meetings that brought together the public with city officials and Shoal Creek Conservancy members to create a community-driven master plan. Participants divided into six small working groups to discuss everything from the history and culture surrounding the creek to the natural resources and ecology found along it.
Neighbors put stickers on large maps indicating where they work and play, and gave input on sticky notes about what could be built along the way. One note suggested a place for snapping turtles and aquatic life. “Shade Shade Shade!!!” another note read.
Plans will lay the groundwork for major improvements to the Shoal Creek Trail and the extension of the trail northward past U.S. 183. When complete, the new trail is expected to span more than 10 miles and connect places such as the Northern Walnut Creek Trail, the Domain, the J.J. Pickle Research Campus, the University of Texas and downtown Austin. The conservancy said the project’s cost will be determined during the planning process.
The proposed extended trail will be creekside where possible, Wolaver said, and move to the street where it’s not possible, “such as areas where single-family private property abuts the creek.” Exact routes will be determined through the community process, which runs through the fall. After that, the conservancy expects to present the community-driven plans to the City Council for consideration and adoption after February 2018.
For Austinite Mia Burton, improvements to the existing Shoal Creek Trail would change her family’s daily life. As a mother of two, she worries about her children biking along Shoal Creek Boulevard, where she lives. Although she’s close enough to bike to a grocery store, she feels it’s too dangerous on the streets.
“It could be a superhighway for people without cars,” said Burton, 48, who has lived on Shoal Creek Boulevard for 20 years and plans to stay there for the rest of her life.
According to Austin’s Urban Trails program, the Shoal Creek Trail was identified as a priority trail in the City Council’s 2014 Urban Trails Master Plan, aimed at growing Austin’s expanding urban trail network.
The Shoal Creek Trail “will be a key feeder route for transportation and recreation,” said Janae Ryan, the city’s urban trails program manager, on Wednesday night.
Upcoming community meetings will be held 6-8 p.m. Sept. 13 at the Congregation Beth Israel and 6-8 p.m. Nov. 15 at a location to be determined. After February 2018, the Shoal Creek Conservancy expects to present the community-driven plans to the City Council for consideration and adoption. For updates and more information, visit shoalcreekconservancy.org/trailplan.