Austin Parks and Rec Dept.

The coolers are coming back in the new year.

A report this morning that the popular water coolers on the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail had been removed got pulses racing.

Run Tex and Rogue Running have provided free water to trail enthusiasts for years. But the practice apparently ran afoul of health and safety regulations: about two weeks ago, the water coolers evaporated from the trail.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Two separate projects on Lady Bird Lake may temporarily get in the way of folks using part of the hike and bike trail.

The city is getting ready to begin work along the Shoal Creek peninsula near the Seaholm Power Plant. Construction begins soon, and is expected to last six months. Portions of the hike and bike trail near the peninsula and the parking lot west of Shoal Creek and South of Cesar Chavez will be closed and those using the trail will be detoured to Cesar Chavez.

KUT News

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department has lifted the burn ban for all city parks. Department Director Sara Hensley cites recent rainfall and improving drought conditions for the change.

No more burn ban means grilling is now allowed in designated areas. Campfires are only allowed at Emma Long Metropolitan Park.

The city reminds everyone that fires should never be left unattended and should be fully extinguished when not in use. The city says a source of water should also be kept nearby.

Naturally, you won't be able to grill or build a campfire at Zilker Park during the Austin City Limits Music Festival. But more importantly, you also won't be able to smoke there.

KUT News

The Austin City Council is considering changing a city code that relates to the naming or renaming of parks and park facilities this week.

Right now, the code states that parks can only be named after a person or a group that has made 'exceptional contributions' to the park system. In fact, the process is pretty simple: a person submits an application asking for a park facility to named or renamed and, after 90 days, the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Board and the city council review all of the suggested names.

The proposed amendment would make it more difficult to change a park name based on community significance. It would require signatures from up to 75 percent of residents in the area of a park or park facility.

The amendment would also add a 'financial contribution component' to the process. No signatures would be required, but name changes could be awarded based on money or land donated to the city.

Congress for the New Urbanism - Central Texas chapter

Finding a parking spot in downtown Austin can sometimes be a challenge. Today, for Worldwide PARK(ing) Day, there will be two fewer spaces – but supporters say the spaces’ transformation serves a greater purpose.

Two parking spaces on Congress Avenue between Sixth Street and Seventh Street, outside the Royal Blue Grocery, have been temporarily converted into a “parklet”— where, instead of parking, people are  invited to use the space as a park-like area to enjoy lunch, read a newspaper, or even just sit and chat.

The parklet conversion and local appreciation of Worldwide PARK(ing) Day is being overseen by the Central Texas chapter of the Congress for the New Urbanism, which seeks to promote smarter civic design. It notes that Worldwide PARK(ing) Day started in 2005, when a San Francisco design firm converted a single metered parking space into a temporary pocket park.

Daniel Reese for KUT News

A good — and groggy — morning to the 50,000 UT-Austin students returning to class today. Here’s some of Austin’s top overnight stories.

Austin School Board Approves 2012-13 Budget

The Austin ISD Board of Trustees approved a budget for the coming school year last night, including $14 million in raises for district employees.

The Austin American-Statesman has more details on the budget:

The district will keep its tax rate the same, at $1.242 per $100 of assessed value, with $1.079 for operations and 16.3 cents for debt. The owner of an average taxable value home, $244,534 after exemptions, would pay $3,037 annually, an increase of $7.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map shows portions of Central Texas have moved from moderate to severe drought.

Recent hot and dry weather has prompted several Central Texas counties to issue burn bans.

Travis, Williamson, Hays and Burnet Counties are all prohibiting outdoor burning.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Wooldridge Square, a small park between the Travis County Courthouse and Austin's Central Library downtown, will be closed for eight months starting in June.

The city is also reaching out to a few homeless people who live in the park, and referring them to social services. Austin's Department of Health and Human Services is asking local homeless service organizations to post this flyer in their offices.

“I’m not happy about the closure, and I don’t know if it’s really worth the effort,” homeless man Bruce Kline told KUT News. He said he’s lived in the park for about two years and doesn’t want to live in a homeless shelter. “They’re supposed to have people come out and tell us where to go once the park closes, but they haven’t yet.” 

Image courtesy

Austin’s “ParkScore” was announced today by the nonprofit Trust for Public Land.

What’s a ParkScore? The assessment looks at parks in the 40 largest U.S. cities, including Austin. The Trust for Public Land studies park systems from several different standpoints.

“The best possible score would be five park benches,” Peter Harnik, director of the trust’s Center for City Park Excellence, tells KUT News.

Deep Eddy Pool Reopens

May 4, 2012
KUT News

Deep Eddy Pool is back open today — or at least part of it.

The deep end of Deep Eddy is open today. The shallow end opens up tomorrow at 10 a.m. The oldest swimming pool in Texas, Deep Eddy has been shut down since last year for a full round of renovations.

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department says the pool bottom has been replaced and the west end now features a zero depth entry. Visitors will also notice new decks and new retaining walls with seating. 

Photo by ramk13

The City of Austin has lifted a burn ban for all city parks. You can grill in designated areas, but campfires are only allowed at Emma Long Metropolitan Park.

Victor Ovalle is with Austin Parks and Recreation. He says recent rainfall has improved drought conditions in the area, but s park-goers should still be careful.

“We’re asking the public to be very careful when they’re out," Ovalle said. "There’s still a lot of timber in the area, in our parks, and so we ask them not to leave their fires unattended, to keep a source of water nearby, and before leaving the site, making sure the fire is completely extinguished."

Photo courtesy

The Trail of Lights is an Austin tradition dating back decades – or was, until it went dark due to city budget cuts in 2009.

That may no longer be the case, as an item before the Austin City Council this week would see the RunTex Foundation – an arm of the local running store and marathon sponsor – bringing the Trail of Lights back to Zilker Park this holiday season.

Backup materials on the agenda item state:

[The Parks and Recreation Department] received an unsolicited proposal regarding the production of a 2012 Trail of Lights from the RunTex Foundation (RTF). RTF seeks to partner with the city to bring back the “traditional” Trail of Lights (TOL) Holiday Festival that will offer an 8-night, family-friendly lighted trail and entertainment at no cost to the citizens of Austin. Recognizing the need to generate funding for this event, RTF proposes to conduct a major fund raising campaign to reimburse the City of Austin for all direct costs associated with the production of this event.

Photo courtesy

The Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) is seeking to reclaim the land on which Austin’s only hostel sits. But a contrary resolution before the Austin City Council this Thursday may extend the hostel's stay by a decade.  

Hosteling International Austin, located on South Lakeshore Boulevard off of Riverside Drive, backs onto the shores of Lady Bird Lake. As the hostel sits on parkland, PARD director Sara Hensley says her department can find a better use for the space. “We support the hostel and we believe that they are doing a great thing, but it does not meet a park purpose and it does not necessarily meet the need of our community,” she tells KUT News.

Hensley notes the agreement with the hostel was inked in 1988, and since then, “as you can imagine, a lot of things have changed. This is on prime parkland – right there where the mouth of the new [Lady Bird Lake] boardwalk will be built.”  

Photo by nikkorsnapper

It’s known as “the oldest swimming pool in Texas”, but people who like to take a winter dip won't be able to at Deep Eddy Pool.

That’s because Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) is temporarily closing the municipal pool for renovations starting December 12. PARD expects to open Deep Eddy in late March or early April 2012, if all goes according to schedule.

Photo by satosphere

For the third year in a row, Austin's Trail of Lights won't happen this holiday season.

Organizers had set a fundraising milestone of $250,000 by today in order to reach the $1 million necessary to host what used to be an annual Austin tradition: a mile long trail through Zilker Park, surrounded with holiday light displays. But they didn’t meet that goal.

“It’s just deeply, deeply disappointing that we weren’t able to raise the revenue that we needed ahead of time,” said Amy Vercruysse with BrightBlue Marketing, the company that had been contracted by the city to organize the event.

Photo courtesy of maddcow

An Austin Energy tradition going on 45 years continued today as the power company hung Christmas lights around the park's moonlight tower. The Zilker Tree will not be lit, however, until December 4. 

Meanwhile, the Trail of Lights is back this year was cancelled again this year. Check out the story here.   

The City of Austin is still in the early design stages of a project to fix the eroding banks along Shoal Creek. KUT took a tour of the creek erosion in Pease Park this week with one of the city’s civil engineers.

“Probably 30 or 40 years ago, they used a lot of concrete or rock filled wire baskets, which also break down over time,” Morgan Byars with the City of Austin's Watershed Protection Department said. “We’re trying to use more sustainable solutions that can last centuries.”

Check out the video above for an example of what he’s talking about.

You can say goodbye to one of Austin’s largest downtown parks for a while. Waterloo Park is closing November 1, and won’t reopen until the fall of 2015.  It’s all for a construction project that will keep Waller Creek running at a constant level year ‘round.

The Waller Creek project is part of a plan to develop a San Antonio-style river walk downtown between I-35 and Red River Streets. You can learn more about that project by checking out the Waller Creek Master Plan.

Photo by karlnorling

ACL festival goers who like to enjoy live music with some drinks and cigarettes will have to leave their smokes at home this weekend. Smoking is banned in all city parks because of the drought, and that includes Zilker Park during Austin City Limits.

“There’s a high propensity for fire if there’s any kind of spark out there,” City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) spokesman Victor Ovalle told KUT News. “It’s critical that we continue this ban of smoking and the use of grills in our parks.”

Photo by City of Austin

The Turner-Roberts Recreation Center in Northeast Austin will be shut from August 1 until early 2012 so the city can conduct a structural investigation on the 7,700 square foot facility.

Last year, the building experienced some “structural movement”, according to David Smythe-Macaulay, a project manager with the City of Austin’s Public Works Department.

“We brought in the architect and a forensic engineer to look into the cause of the movement,” Smythe-Macaulay said. “And hopefully come up with repairs and get those done.”