New park property gained o v e r t i m e
ACQUIRED LAND BY ACREAGE FOR NEW PARKS
YEARS LAND WAS ACQUIRED FOR EXISTING PARKS
PURCHASES UNDER NEGOTIATION
The following chart shows how much land the city has acquired for new parks in Northwest Austin over the past half-century. Since 2010, the city has acquired about 30 acres of land for new parks—Trailhead and Forest North neighborhood parks. The two parcels of land the city of Austin is currently negotiating to purchase will add 21 acres of parkland o Spicewood Springs Road. SOURCES: CITY OF AUSTIN PARKS AND RECREATION DEPARTMENT, THE TRUST FOR PUBLIC LANDCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
400 350 300 250 200 150 100 50 0
1977: First tracts of Northern Walnut Creek Greenbelt acquired
1964: Walnut Creek Metro Park acquired
1979: First tracts of upper and lower Bull Creek greenbelts acquired
1997: Austin voters approve $19M of park bonds
2018: Austin voters approve $149M in parks and recreation bonds
organization established to support the develop- ment of parks and guarantee park access. The Trust for Public Land, a nationwide nonprot whose mission is to create and protect parklands and other public spaces, each year publishes reports comparing parkland acreage and parks spending between cities across the U.S. The report found Aus- tin in 2020 had 18.2 acres of parkland per 1,000 res- idents. That was above the median mark for other cities with comparable density, but still behind cit- ies such as San Antonio, Phoenix and San Diego. Austin in its 2019-20 scal year spent $140.29 per resident on operating and capital spending costs related to parks, according to the Trust for Public Land. That is nearly $30 more per resident than the previous year. Voters in 2018 approved a $149 million bond that authorizes the Parks and Recreation Department to acquire land for parks. The two pieces of land in Northwest Austin currently under negotiation will be purchased partially through funds from that bond. About $2 million of the purchase of the Hough trust property is funded through parkland dedication, or fees that developers pay that fund park acquisitions. “Parks are central to our quality of life here in Austin, and they help shape how we grow, how we gather and howwe come together as a community,” Alter said.
There are a lot of parking spaces and people use them, but there is not enough,” Brimer said. Alter back in August 2020 told Community Impact Newspaper the Spicewood lodge property was “not being purchased with the idea of being a heavily developed park.” Because of the land’s proximity to the BCP, developing the park similar to a space like Zilker Park—with athletics facilities and large playgrounds—will likely prove unrealistic. Brimer said that is consistent with Yaupon Blu’s vision of that parkland, and the Bull Creek Founda- tion has similar sentiments. “We support the idea of keeping it as a less devel- oped park,” McGill said. The need for parks inNorthwest Austin With the acquisition of the two new parcels of property, the city would add approximately 21 acres of parkland to the Northwest Austin area. Alter said the city’s pools and swimming holes continue to be important for people in the city to cool down. “We need more of those spaces. People need to be able to pause and get out into nature. And here in Austin, we need access to water,” Alter said. According to data from the Austin Parks and Recre- ation Department, the city last acquired new parkland in Northwest Austin in 2018 when it added a new sec- tion of the NorthernWalnut Creek Greenbelt. “We’re not acquiring parkland at a clip that can keep up with demand, so what you’re seeing is a lot of parks are being heavily used” said Colin Wallis, CEO of the Austin Parks Foundation—a nonprot
Developing the parkland The trail that is designed to run through the two new sections of parkland will eventually connect to the Bull Creek Greenbelt, creating one long, continu- ous trail. The full trail will run about 7 miles and cross through hundreds of acres of parkland. One section of trail between the Spicewood lodge property and St. Edward’s will need to be built in order to fully connect the greenbelt, but Scott said the property owners have already told the city it will be granted easements for the connection. There is currently no hard and rm timeline for construction to start on the new nature trail along Bull Creek. Scott and Alison Alter, who represents Austin’s District 10 on City Council, said the city is still technically negotiating price for both pieces of property, and then the city has to begin its vision plan process. This will include design input from the community and other stakeholders. One common design element that both the city and community agrees needs to be addressed is a lack of parking. Richard Brimer, a director with the Yaupon Blus Homeowners Association, said overspilling parking has been an issue on Spicewood Springs Road for years. As more people access St. Edward’s and the lower Bull Creek Greenbelt, Brimer said the number of parking spaces at trailheads have failed to keep up with demand. There is currently one lot at St. Edward’s, as well as limited roadside parking. As a result, cars frequently park illegally on the side of the road on weekends. “Generally speaking, it is a terrible situation.
For more information, visit communityimpact.com.
NORTHWEST AUSTIN EDITION • MAY 2021
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