The company that puts on the Austin City Limits Festival each year is kicking in at least $1.5 million to upgrade a portion of Zilker Park.
The area off of Stratford Drive on the west end of Zilker Park, where the grass and gravel meet MoPac Boulevard, is commonly used as an area for auxiliary parking especially during the busiest days at the park.
Unlike some of the previous projects funded by the partnership between the Austin Parks Foundation and C3 Presents, the Stratford project will be less about embellishment and more about improving functionality. The improvements will also be limited by environmental restrictions in the area.
“We are working together to make that a usable space (but) we can’t plant much of anything,” said Lindsey Sokol, festival director for C3.
The area used to be a landfill, which was closed and covered over in 1968. Trash that was dumped in the quarry as late as the Johnson administration is still there below the surface.
Three to six feet of clay cover the garbage in an area that many use to fly kites or park their cars. But that doesn’t keep the area from becoming a muddy mess after heavy rains, with standing water lasting sometimes for days.
To combat that, the Stratford project will aim to stabilize the ground by laying gravel over a portion of the field. It will also improve drainage in the area in hopes of keeping water from stagnating on Stratford Drive.
The project is the latest park improvement paid through the Austin Parks Foundation using $26 million that came ACL Festival ticket sales. Other projects have included $5 million for Vic Mathias Shores, $2 million for Zilker Park lawn restoration and $1 million for Republic Square.
But unlike many of the other projects, which had an emphasis on design, this project is mostly about trying to make the western end of Zilker Park a more resilient park space.
“Our goal is to protect Zilker Park by giving thousands of weekend visitors to the park, Zilker Botanical Gardens, Austin Nature and Science Center and the Butler Trail a usable area under all weather conditions,” said Austin Parks Foundation CEO Colin Wallis.
Project managers recognize that people will still leave their cars in this portion of Zilker Park, even though using it as parking lot is not permitted. That bothers Zilker neighborhood resident David King.
“To that extent, I am a little concerned that they are wanting to put some gravel over there and essentially designate it officially as a parking lot,” King said. “That worries me.”
C3 and the Parks Foundation hope to complete the project by October, just in time for this year’s ACL Fest. During the two weeks that the park is closed for the festival, that portion of the park is used as a staging area for staff and operations.
The project is currently out for bid. Wallis said the goal is to complete the project in phases so operations at the park are not affected.
“Zilker Park is the crown jewel of Austin parks, and with this we can preserve Zilker and enhance it at the same time,” said Rick Cofer, a member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Board.