by Bobbie Jean Sawyer
The City of Austin Urban Trails Program is seeking public feedback on a portion of the Violet Crown Trail stretching from Sunset Valley to William Cannon. An open house on the multipurpose urban trail was held Wednesday at the Hampton Branch Library.
Nadia Barrera, the Urban Trails program manager, said there are currently four options for the Oak Hill section of the trail, two of which require passing through private property and will be dependent on permission from the property owners before they may be presented.
“We’re looking at both sides of the creek—Williamson Creek—to get to Brush Country. We’re looking at an alignment that goes along Mopac and we’re looking at another alignment that may or may not start behind private property,” Barrera said. “There may be some—by the time that the open house happens in a week and a half—that might not be viable due to private property concerns.”
Barrera said one option is to build on city parkland.
“We’d have to meet all the existing codes and standards but it’s a viable option because we own it,” Barrera said. “We can build on our property.”
Barrera said the purpose of the open house was to learn what residents want from the trail, and how the trail would be used by locals.
“We would be using bond funding and grant funding to build this trail and we recognize that it’s an investment,” Barrera said. “We want it to be the best project it can be. We want people to be happy with it and we want people to use it.”
The Violet Crown Trail was originally developed by the Hill Country Conservancy, an organization dedicated to preserving nature in central Texas. The trail system, originally called the “Walk for a Day” trail, is planned to begin at the Barton Springs Pool and eventually stretch all the way into Hays County.
Barrera said the environmental concerns in the south Austin region require
“We recognize that it’s a sensitive environmental area and we have to be cognizant of that—there are flood plain issues and there are actually caves there that we need to protect,” Barrera said. “There’s a lot of different elements that we’re considering in the design.”
Barrera said urban trails help the city meet the goals set in the Imagine Austin plan, such as developing a compact and connected city, advocating for healthy activities among citizens and cutting down on vehicular travel in favor of biking and walking to public transit stops.
“We recognize that if you can use a bicycle or walk to a transit stop then you’re saving money for other things like housing or food,” Barrera said.
Simply interacting with nature, which urban trails help promote, will help Austin citizens decrease stress, Barrera said.
“We all live very stressful lives. We’re stuck in a box all day looking at a screen,” Barrera said. “Being able to ride or walk as your form of transportation really does help to get into nature and separate from the daily grind.”
Rick Perkins, a member of the Oak Hill Trails Association, said if the trail is completed from Brodie Lane to Brush Country it will provide Oak Hill hikers and bikers a safer and more connected mode of travel.
“The (Oak Hill Trails Association) is most interested in part of the Violet Crown Trail to be on Williamson Creek, because that will start the connection for that trail that has been approved in the past,” Perkins said. “If the section from Brodie to Brush Country is built then everyone will be able to run, bike and hike safely without the risk of automobile interaction.”
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