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 to protect the natural environment, but also by educating the rapidly growing number of pool and park 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 has conducted an extensive, two-year long community engagement process to establish a Vision Plan framework for the restoration and future development of Zilker Metropolitan Park, including over 200 documented and recorded community meetings with community members, nonprofit and city wide organizations, concessionaires, event/festival organizers, and neighborhood associations. In February 2023, the design consultants released the Draft Vision Plan which seeks to balance the competing priorities of protecting the natural environment while allowing use of the park by so many visitors who enjoy this beloved outdoor space. We commend the City and design team for their work in resolving so many different priorities and in creating a plan which was improved by the diverse range of community inputs. And while no single stakeholder will be completely happy with the final plan, the ability to compromise and support the overall outcome is a critical part of this community-driven process.
Barton Springs Conservancy is supporting the Zilker Park Vision Plan because it provides a thoughtful, comprehensive, and community-driven plan to make Zilker Park a greener, inclusive, and sustainably accessible park for all of Austin. For a detailed statement of our endorsement, please see our BSC Letter of Support for ZPVP (Mar. 14, 2023) which provides a summary of the aspects of the plan that we support, along with a listing of some possible improvements that can be made. By way of highlight, we are excited by proposal to create a green Land/Nature Bridge that connects the north and south portions across Barton Springs Road; to ecologically enhance over 93 acres of environmentally damaged parkland; to remove surface parking from the Polo Field and Butler Landfill parking areas and other park areas that negatively impact water quality in Barton Creek; to improve access within and to the park with an “all of the above” approach for parking, transit, trails, shuttles, and increased bike/ped connections; and to create a Welcome Plaza — all while reducing the amount of impervious cover and rehabilitating Barton Creek with controlled water access and erosion treatments. We also support and endorse the recommendation to create a unified Zilker Park non-profit organization to partner with the City to help implement the Zilker Park Vision Plan, to serve as a single point of contact between PARD and park stakeholders, to advocate for the Vision Plan, and to advocate for public and private funding for park programming, operations, maintenance, and capital improvements.
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