City pushing for flood prevention dollars, Onion Creek memorial

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — When the city dedicated parkland along Onion Creek, it didn’t erase the painful memories Frances Acuña still holds.

“You see all of this, and at the same time you think of the people who used to live here,” she told us as we drove through Onion Creek Metropolitan Park.

The land was once a neighborhood devastated by flooding. Halloween floods along the creek killed four people in 2013 and three in 2015, damaging hundreds of homes in the process.

The city spent millions to buy the homes; all but a few are now torn down. Austin Watershed Protection tells us it bought out 815 properties along Lower Onion Creek and 130 homes at Upper Onion Creek.

Acuña speaks with KXAN as she drives through Onion Creek Metropolitan Park Thursday (Photo/Tim Holcomb)
Acuña speaks with KXAN as she drives through Onion Creek Metropolitan Park Thursday (Photo/Tim Holcomb)

Acuña gets emotional when she thinks about one of her friends who lost everything.

“She has so much anger and doesn’t allow herself to feel anything other than anger for everything that happened,” she said, tearfully.

Council voted to pass a resolution Thursday calling on the city to build a memorial honoring the victims at Onion Creek Metropolitan Park. The direction, which was brought by Council Member Vanessa Fuentes of District 2, also calls for the city to find money in the budget for Austinites to “flood-proof” their homes in vulnerable areas. An example of doing this would be adding more gutters or drainage swales, as well as upgrading homeowners’ doors and windows.

“Quite frankly, the city has not done enough,” said Fuentes. “We’re looking at how can we better strengthen our homes to be able to withstand a flooding event.”

The resolution also calls on City Manager Spencer Cronk to find money to train and educate community members on emergency preparedness.

For Acuña, a memorial would serve as recognition for those who were displaced and still carry the trauma. She added people visiting the park should know the land’s history.

“They don’t know what this land has,” Acuña told us. “It has many sorrows.”

City council is asking City Manager Spencer Cronk to come back with funding recommendations within three months.

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