Returning the trail around Lady Bird Lake, one of Austin’s defining features, back to its grassroots origins, the city’s parks and recreation department has conferred primary stewardship of the Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail to a newly renamed nonprofit, the Trail Conservancy.
Created as the Trail Foundation in 2003 to preserve and protect the trail, the Conservancy now manages the pathway, which attracts some 4.5 million users a year, hand-in-glove with the parks department.
The city will continue to pay for certain projects and operations, but significantly less than in the past.
“The trail began with volunteers and it will head into the future with volunteers,” said Heidi Anderson, CEO of the Trail Conservancy. “We honor the legacy of Lady Bird Johnson and others who, 50 years ago, did the hard work of making this trail a reality. As we have for years, we at the Conservancy will continue to preserve and enhance it for the benefit of everybody in the city.”
The public-private partnership closely resembles deals forged to create the Long Center for the Performing Arts and the Waterloo Greenway, with its signature Moody Amphitheater in Waterloo Park. Using those and other such partnerships as models, the Trail Conservancy plans to expand membership and seek outside dollars, giving citizens a sense of ownership of the projects.
The nonprofit already shouldered a giant share of the management burden before it formalized an agreement with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department in June. It has spent, for instance, approximately $6 million a year on trail improvements, while the City of Austin has devoted about $1 million a year.
Backers, followers and politicos will salute the new name and fresh duties at a public event from 9 a.m. to noon on Sept. 24 at Shoal Beach. For more on this and other Conservancy events, go to TheTrailConservancy.com.