We celebrated a big 2022 and took a peek into 2023 at our annual State of the Trail breakfast Friday, December 9, attended by our board members, stakeholders, community partners, and donors.
Board Chair Zach Hunter kicked off the morning recapping 2022, and there was a lot to celebrate! This year, we celebrated 50 years of the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail in Austin and signed a Parks Operations and Maintenance Agreement with the City of Austin. To cap things off, we changed our name from The Trail Foundation to The Trail Conservancy to better reflect our new role as primary stewards of the Trail.
Before diving into the 2023 outlook for the Trail, we heard from keynote speakers Katie Coyne and Maura Lout. Katie Coyne, the City of Austin Environmental Officer and Assistant Director of the Watershed Protection Department, reminded us what love is. She talked about the Trail’s impact on the environment of Austin – both ecological and emotional- and what it means to be accountable to the City and community who love the Trail. People love the Trail and the feelings they have when using the Trail, and it is essential to protect the things that people love most while also enhancing the areas, making it sustainable for generations to come. Central Park Conservancy Institute for Urban Parks Executive Director Maura Lout was up next, diving into what nonprofit park partnerships can do for public land. The national trend is moving toward nonprofit park partnerships as City budgets get tighter, and Central Park was a trailblazer with 40 years of experience. After a visual tour of Central Park before and after conservancy stewardship Maura shared the key principles for successful public-private partnerships, including being a good partner, thinking long-term, keeping the community at the center, and our favorite walk, don’t run.
Which is precisely what we plan to do! With a five-year phased, community-based approach to managing the full 250+ acres of Town Lake Metropolitan Park, our 2023 Board Chair-Elect Andy Austin talked about the Capital Projects and Ecological Enhancements in the pipeline for 2023.
Butler Exercise Enhancements. We are officially in construction, installing new exercise equipment that can accommodate 100 different exercises, a seating area, and the first solar-powered chilled water drinking fountain. This will also be the site of a new commemorative donor brick plot on the west side of the Trail. The enhancements were made possible through funding by Love, Tito’s.
Rainey Street Trailhead.This project, previously scheduled for 2022, had been delayed due to the final terms of the Parkland Improvement Agreement with the City. Negotiations are happening now, and we hope to be bidding and in construction by the Spring of 2023. This project will include a new seating area, nature play area, neighborhood lawn, floating dock for water access, and native restoration planting.
Festival Beach Green Stormwater Infrastructure Project. In the works for 2023 is our first large capital project entirely focused on restoring ecological function and fixing large-scale erosion issues. Working with Studio Balcones, Watershed Protection Department, Austin Parks & Recreation Department’s Planning and Forestry teams, and the community, the design will feature bioswales and retention gardens that could enhance the shoreline resilience and tree health in the area. We are fundraising for this project and are projected to start permitting next year.
Holly Project.We received a million-dollar gift this year, which has enabled us to resume our detailed design and site permitting for this project, which will be our first of many in the Holly Shores area. We hope to have final designs and permits secured by the end of the year, allowing construction to begin in 2024. The project will include a fishing pier, additional seating, and native restoration planting. We will also be adding irrigation and shade trees to the newly opened portion of the Trail in 2023, thanks to a grant from the Urban Forestry Grant Program.
Arts+Culture Plan. After spending 2022 engaging in extensive community engagement and working with a national consultant, we will release our Arts+Culture Plan, encompassing the entire 10 miles of the Butler Trail, in Spring 2023. The plan will create a roadmap for how arts and culture activities can contribute to the space, elevating the experience of using the Trail without overwhelming, distracting, or complicating the environment.
Seaholm Waterfront. With the Austin Parks & Recreation Department completing Phase 1 in September, TTC is excited to be leading Phase II, turning a historic water intake building into a new piece of Austin’s architecture that will be part of the park and open to all. We have launched our fundraising campaign.
Comprehensive Signage Plan. We are reviewing consultant proposals for a plan to review and update the existing signage and wayfinding along the Trail. A thorough plan will allow opportunities for improvement, expansion, and increased visibility throughout the 10-mile Trail and surrounding parkland.
As we wrap up 2022, we want to thank all our partners, members, donors, and community for helping us make this past year one of our best. We look forward to the future and recognize that we will accomplish great things together!
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