A new Zilker Park proposal would add trees, reduce parking — here’s where

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — One Austin group’s new vision for Zilker Park could mean returning it to a more “natural state.”

Save Our Springs Alliance released the “Rewilding Zilker Park” vision plan, which aims to create more shade and water protection and bring more wild nature to the urban park.

The alliance says the goal of rewilding is to restore forests, wetlands and prairies. They also want to improve the connection between nature and people, as well as boost the mental and physical health of our ecosystems.

Natural resource Consultant Elizabeth McGreevy prepared the proposal and said the current lack of shade renders much of the park unusable for several months of the year.

“There’s not as much to do just for the everyday person or small groups going out there for picnicking or nature observation,” she said. “[When] you allow more of the park to rewild, you increase the diversity of what you could do in the park for everyday park users.”

Take a look at the map pictured here: the green and yellow colors represent where the city would cease mowing and allow various trees and plants to grow.

Map of proposed rewilding areas (Courtesy of Elizabeth McGreevy)
Map of proposed rewilding areas (Courtesy of Elizabeth McGreevy)

If approved, the proposal would eliminate an 80-space parking lot near the park’s front entrance. It would also get rid of the overflow dirt parking on the West side of the park, but McGreevy added a more environmentally friendly parking option could be added later.

“What we’re really, really hoping is to find more ways to reduce how many people park on site,” said McGreevy.

In a recent survey related to the Zilker Park vision, 82% of respondents told the city they wanted to see more nature preserves at the park. However, in the same survey, 86% said they used a car to get to Zilker Park. In another question, 54% said a lack of parking was the main barrier for them to go to the park.

For Kenzie Cherniak and her soccer-playing dog, Zilker Park is an oasis. But driving from Cedar Park, she tells us she has to be strategic in avoiding the crowds and the fight for parking.

“Usually we’ll carpool if we have a bunch of people come,” said Cherniak. “But I try and stay away when it’s crazy, like the weekends.”

The group wants to present its ideas to Austin leaders, as they ask for feedback from the public on the city’s own Zilker Park Vision Plan. The city’s next virtual community-wide meeting is set for Oct. 19 at 6 p.m. You can register to attend on Zoom online here.

SOS Alliance worked alongside three neighborhood organizations on the report: Zilker, Barton Hills and Bouldin Creek. Read the full report online here.

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