After years of erosion, Austin is shoring up the downtown banks of the Shoal Creek trail starting Monday. Running from 15th Street to 28th Street, the project includes the eastern boundary of Pease Park.
According to Morgan Byars, supervising engineer for the project at the Watershed Protection Department, the erosion hasn’t only caused safety hazards, but an overall loss of greenspace.
“Severe bank erosion [is] affecting large heritage trees that potentially will fall into the creek,” Byars says. “We’ve got erosion very close to the trail system which presents a safety hazard for pedestrians and bikers, but also it’s just a general loss of parkland.”
Part of the plan is to build up the creek, and to reinforce the bank using limestone. Additionally, existing trails will be resurfaced and better defined.
“It’s going to be much more visually appealing, but it’s going to be an engineered solution to the erosion problem,” said Watershed Protection spokesperson Wendy Morgan. “So when the flood waters come down this creek – and keep in mind this creek is a 10.1 mile creek, from 183 all the way down to Lady Bird Lake – you get a lot of water coming through this creek. We can’t control the flooding, but we can control, to some extent, the impact on the parkland and on the creek banks.”
Byars ensures that the project will build and add on to the landscape that is already in place.
“Where you see a bare, eroding bank, will be a nice, vegetated stream bank in the future,” Byars said. “The overall appearance will be a more green feel to the park, and with increased trees and vegetation along the creek corridor.”
Public Works project manager Christina Calvary says input from numerous stakeholder meetings helped shaped the plan.
“We originally had a series of rain gardens planned, which were landscape features throughout this area, but one of the major stakeholders' comments was, ‘No, we want to maintain this area as much as possible for public use,’” Calvary says. “And so as a result then, we redesigned this area as a meadow."
Parks and Recreation Department spokesperson Victor Ovalle believes the city has a responsibility to restore the park to its former glory.
“Every year we have a really strong stakeholder community around this park, that come in on park day, you’ll see them planting trees, you’ll see them spreading mulch, you’ll see them spreading dirt, leveling off the areas. The University of Texas students have a great affinity for this park,” Ovalle said. “It’s in the community’s and the city’s interests to restore it.”
Here's a video from the city on the project: