Last month, City Council unanimously approved the Auditorium Shores redevelopment project and, in so doing, gave the people of Austin a wonderful gift. This project was first approved as part of the Town Lake Metropolitan Park master plan in 1999. But for 14 years, the city lacked the funding to put the plan in motion. Now, thanks to generous private donations, our beloved downtown park can realize its full potential so everyone can enjoy it in harmony for generations to come.
Getting to this point took much collaboration and compromise. The plan received input from runners, cyclists, dog-lovers, neighborhood residents, and ecology and landscape design experts. The Austin Parks Foundation is confident that the current redesign plan meets the needs of our growing city. It offers something for all — health, safety, functionality and the quality Austinites deserve. The Austin Parks Foundation is joined in its support of the plan by the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Board, the Nature Conservancy, the Trail Foundation, South by Southwest and the Downtown Austin Alliance.
For the Austin Parks Foundation, our paramount concern is improving the health and safety of park users. For years, we have heard about too many “close calls.” One Austin parent recently shared the terrifying story of having his three-year old daughter trapped between a retaining wall and a dog. In a panic, he called 911. Fortunately, his daughter’s injuries were limited to a goose egg on her forehead and the only damage he sustained was the $1,000 charge from EMS. We could not continue to compromise the health and safety of park users and the redesign plan offers solutions to problems that have plagued the park for too long.
Construction is already underway and in as soon as one year, Auditorium Shores will be transformed into a best-in-class public space befitting the love people in Austin hold for their parks, featuring:
- A safe coexistence among all user groups to resolve long-standing conflict of use issues.
- A revitalized, family-friendly lawn area spanning nearly five acres to showcase innovative programming and provide a safe and inviting space for Austin residents and visitors to relax, and play, while enjoying some of the best views Austin has to offer.
- A substantial investment to create an off-leash area dedicated to our canine friends and families, with a thoughtful, functional design on nearly five acres of parkland (the equivalent of more than three-and-a-half football fields).
- Upgrades to basic infrastructure to address outdated electrical and irrigation systems; inadequate nighttime lighting; shoreline erosion; trail safety; and lack of water fountains to provide hydration to trail and park users, both two- and four-legged.
We applaud the City Council for approving the redevelopment plan and look forward to seeing the vision of an improved Auditorium Shores fulfilled.
Colin Wallis is executive director of the Austin Parks Foundation and Daniel Woodroffe is the foundation’s board chairman.