A LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT
As anyone visiting Barton Springs knows, Zilker Park is a beloved and special place because its natural environment provides a clean, safe, enjoyable, and welcoming outdoor space for millions of visitors each year, including not only swimmers, hikers, tourists, families, and recreational park users, but also numerous outdoor events that celebrate Austin’s natural spaces in a metropolitan setting located at the intersection of Barton Springs, Barton Creek, Lady Bird Lake, and the Barton Creek Greenbelt. The growing popularity of Zilker Park embodies the tension between the development pressures of our growing city and the environmental fragility of this open space with spring fed swimming hole and salamander habitat, but also presents an “opportunity” to leverage this growth, not only by harnessing revenue from this growth to make park improvements and protect the natural environment, but also by educating the rapidly growing number of pool visitors about the environmental threats to this natural treasure and about the stewardship opportunities for preserving and protecting it for future generations.
To attend to the needs of Zilker Park as well as the growing use of the park visitors, the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department is leading a Vision Plan process to establish a framework for the restoration and future development of Zilker Metropolitan Park. The Vision Plan will seek to balance the competing priorities of protecting the natural environment while allowing use of the park by so many visitors who enjoy to this beloved outdoor space.
To help find the right balance for the long-term health of the park, Barton Springs Conservancy has supported the Vision Plan by commissioning the creation of the Zilker Park Natural Resource Inventory & Management Guidelines Report that documents existing ecological and cultural conditions of the park in a 199 page document with over 80 maps and figures, countless photos, and a list of over 600 species observed, including 2 endangered species. Looking at opportunities to improve and sustain the natural areas of Zilker Park as park usage is increasing, the Report was created to ensure the Zilker Park Vision Plan process has the needed information to embed ecological health into the planning process. However, the Report recognizes the challenge of balancing different priorities within Zilker Park. For example, the Report asserts that the highest and best use for the Butler Landfill area from an ecological perspective would be to to extract the waste material or add additional soil to the top of the cap and restore the area to a woodland and/or savanna, but then acknowledges that this recommendation should be taken into consideration when attempting to find a compromise between ecological function and pragmatic use of the park space.
The next community meeting will be Virtual Community Meeting #3 on Tuesday, October 19, at 6pm on Zoom. This is the third community meeting where the design consultants will present the preliminary design concepts developed thus far by sharing design ideas related to the park which aim to improve mobility and transportation, programming, environmental features, historical resources, and more. In addition to explaining how community input has influenced the concepts, the meeting will also solicit feedback, generate alternate ideas, etc. To sign up, go to the Zoom Meeting Registration site and enter your name and email to register. We also encourage folks to attend one of the upcoming Zilker Vision Plan Pop-Up Events that are scheduled all across the City from Oct. 23 to Nov. 25 which will provide more opportunities to speak with project team members and understand the options presented in Meeting #3. Meeting locations and times are posted at https://www.austintexas.gov/ZilkerVision#pop-ups2. Another way to provide input is to sign up to receive ongoing updates on the Vision Plan website.
Please join Barton Springs Conservancy in advocating for our values and priorities which we believe will protect the environment while welcoming visitors from across the city to enjoy all that Zilker Park has to offer by addressing increased usage of Zilker Park while prioritizing the natural environment of the park through education and park improvements that focus on sustainable systems and innovative methods for maintenance and operations.
For the Love of the Springs,
Barton Springs Conservancy, President
“For the Love of the Springs” Campaign Video