At last fall’s groundbreaking, Waller Creek Conservancy CEO Peter Mullan stated, “Waterloo Park will become a new hub of activity, a new center for the city. A place that builds a sense of belonging to the city – something that makes us feel part of something bigger than ourselves, and that connects us to each other.”
We agree — and, while there will be challenges along the way, rest assured tunnel performance is not one of them.
A once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a premier amenity for all of Austin to enjoy, the Waller Creek parks project is made possible by a unique public-private partnership between the city of Austin and the nonprofit Waller Creek Conservancy.
There is a rich history to be found on the banks of the creek, extending into the surrounding parkland and beyond. But until recently, flooding in the district has posed a threat. Most notorious are Austin’s 1915 flood and the Memorial Day flood of 1981, both of which resulted in fatalities and significant property loss.
The need for a solution was urgent. Beginning construction in 2011, the Waller Creek Flood Control Tunnel tames the waters of Waller Creek, resulting in safety for residents and businesses alike. Today, we know that the tunnel works. It passed tests for a 100-year storm event and reduces the floodplain south of the inlet facility located in Waterloo Park.
What you have read in the news recently about the tunnel concerns a contractual negotiation between the city and its contractor. Waller Creek Conservancy is not a party to the dispute, and the legal issues have no impact on the vision we share for Waller Creek or its implementation. Let us be clear: The parks project is moving ahead as planned and without delay.
For all of you who have supported Waller Creek parks with your time or your treasure, we thank you, and we look forward to celebrating future achievements together.
Removing the threat of floodwater has allowed us to dream big about what this area can and will be: a vibrant chain of parks that will help us achieve a range of civic priorities from increased green infrastructure to becoming a city space that welcomes the wonderful differences in cultures, ages, and levels of abilities. By leveraging the expertise of an interdisciplinary team of city departments and Austin’s philanthropic community, we are restoring the natural ecosystem of the creek and building unique park space. We are also weaving together East with West, North with South, and Austin’s historic legacy with its innovative future.
Right now, with the Waterloo Park construction project under way, it is easy to focus on the physical transformation that will happen at Waller Creek: It will be significant and beautiful. But what excites us most is what this means for our community: a transformation that transcends what we see on the ground. We recognize, now more than ever, the need to create places in our city that encourage and honor diversity through the promotion of inclusion and mutual respect.
Waller Creek will be a place for all Austinites. We invite you to build it and experience it with us.
Adler is mayor of Austin; Tovo, Houston and Renteria are City Council members.