Heavy rain destroys a section of Shoal Creek Trail

Austin

Monday morning, joggers, dog walkers and bicyclists were abruptly stopped when they got to the off-leash area of Shoal Creek Trail.

“There’s not only no trail, there’s no ground,” said Kara Imle, who told us she brings her dog Benson out to Shoal Creek almost every day. “Maybe we underestimated the power of nature at this point.”

A portion of the trail near North Lamar Boulevard was heavily damaged after Friday’s rainstorm. The trail is at the bottom of a hill, and the Austin Watershed Protection Department says a “slope failure” after Friday’s heavy rain led to soil and dirt tumbling down on to the trail and destroying it.

“You might think of it as a landslide,” city engineer Clayton Ernst said. “We are investigating more details to know what the real root causes were.”

This news comes just weeks after several city agencies and organizations got together on April 20 to celebrate the completion of the Shoal Creek restoration. Ernst said there’s not a lot of overlap between the restoration project and this failure because the restoration project focused on restoring creekside banks. 

According to the city’s website, the restoration project for Shoal Creek, west of Lamar Boulevard between 15th and 28th Streets, was to provide ongoing protection against erosion, improve water quality in Shoal Creek and restore native vegetation along the creek.

Ernst explained, “These events are very unpredictable, so I don’t think there’s much we could’ve done to get ahead of this. These events happen from time to time in this kind of geological environment.”

At this point, Ernst said it’s too early to tell what they can do to fix the damage. He said rebuilding the trail at this same location may not be an option. “We’re not sure how long the slope is going to be unstable,” he said. “It might still be unstable.”

Many trail users Monday were stunned to see the damage. Imle said, “So what do you do to shore up something that nature keeps wanting to drag down?”

The city expects this section of the trail to be closed for months, which means dog owners, joggers and bicyclists will need to find a new daily routine. 

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