City plans major upgrades and parking garages for Zilker Park

Monday November 21st, 2022 by Chad Swiatecki

The city has published the draft of its vision plane for the Future of Zilker Park, which divides the major proposed improvements for the park into five regions which include the seven main activity areas for common public use and programming.

Some of the most significant improvements likely to be made to the 351-acre park include a land bridge to connect the northern and southern portions across Barton Springs Road, special restoration for 91 acres that have been environmentally damaged, access improved via shuttles and more connection points, and a reception square converted from existing structures, including the caretaker’s house. Community comments on the plan is open until January 8, with online and in-person events scheduled for December.

Priority projects for the North Region include a parking garage on its east side or under the MoPac Freeway, the realignment of Stratford Drive along MoPac, and the restoration of the former Butler landfill area to woods and meadow .

The central region would see the land bridge intended to unite the northern and southern areas of the park, with underground parking added to accommodate out-of-town visitors from further afield. A new Zilker Hillside Theater would be incorporated into the land bridge, with the possible reduction of Barton Springs Road to two lanes with parallel parking and improved bus stops.

To the east, picnic areas and toilets would be improved, and a pedestrian and bicycle bridge over Toomey Road would increase connectivity. Additionally, Lou Neff Road would be converted for bicycles and emergency vehicles only, and a bridge across Lady Bird Lake would be added between the Roberta Crenshaw Bridge and the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge.

The southern area of ​​the park would include a third new parking garage connected to the Welcome Plaza, and the Caretaker’s House and Quonset Hut will be repurposed for educational purposes. The south side of Barton Springs Pool would remain open year-round, while Barton Creek would be rehabilitated.

To the west, there will be a new access road to the Girl Scout Hut and the southern section of Columbus Drive will be transformed into a nature trail, with Andrew Zilker Road being converted for pedestrians and cyclists only. Columbus Drive would also be partially closed with a roundabout, and the nature trail would be extended from the Barton Creek Greenbelt to Lady Bird Lake via the land bridge. A new pedestrian bridge on the west side of Barton Springs Pool would improve the connection across Barton Creek.

The plan follows a multi-year community feedback process to gather ideas on the most important issues to address in the park going forward. Over 20 small plans and vision documents were used and over 6,000 comments and suggestions were collected at awareness events held in the 10 city council districts.

Initial reactions to the plan on social media and elsewhere have drawn criticism over the inclusion of three car parks, although the plan notes that there would be no increase and a potential decrease in the parking space footprint. parking compared to what is currently offered. The concentration of these parking areas as well as the shuttle and circulation options within the park are intended to reduce the impact of drivers circling the park’s low-grade road in search of spaces, disrupting visitor use. and degrades roads over time.

In January, a note written with input from more than a dozen stakeholder groups, including the Trail of Lights Foundation and Zilker Theater Productions, offered preliminary thoughts after a map and design plans were shared with the community. This memo supported environmental and visitation improvements, and the rehabilitation of polo fields and landfill areas as long as parking in those areas was moved elsewhere on park property. The groups opposed the reduction of existing lawns or the introduction of vehicular traffic near the Austin Nature and Science Center, while lobbying for the visitor center, improving the playground near the Barton Springs Pool and improving transportation routes throughout the park.

The plan was created with the help of consulting firm Design Workshop, which was paid $600,000 for its work.

picture by Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 3.0via Wikimedia Commons.

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