AUSTIN (KXAN) — A group dedicated to Austin’s popular trail around Lady Bird Lake finished a project last week to make part of the path safer, a combined effort with the city of Austin’s Public Works Department.
The project, installing a permanent guardrail on West Cesar Chavez Street under North Lamar Boulevard, wrapped up a few days early. It comes more than six years after 81-year-old Air Force veteran John Griffith was hit and killed by a driver who went off the road and onto the trail in that spot.
The guardrail replaces plastic barricades that were installed as a temporary fix.
The work comes as the Trail Foundation makes big plans for the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail, the 10-mile loop around Lady Bird Lake.
Late last year, the foundation announced 15 new projects it will take on in the coming years in recognition of the group’s 15th anniversary. Trail users will see progress on some of those in the coming weeks and months.
The Trail Foundation plans to break ground on one of them, Brazos Bluff, a landscaped and seeded sitting area, this fall.
“When you’re out walking or running the trails, you’re always looking for a nice shaded place to sit down, especially in the summer,” Gregory Choban said.
Choban walks an eight-mile roundtrip about once a week along the trail; he first moved to Austin in 1959, and he’s been walking along the lake since the trails themselves were young, even as they’ve changed under his feet.
“They’ve widened the trails, they’ve flattened the trails, they’ve made improvements like the boardwalk and this much better access under the Congress Avenue bridge,” he said.
Brazos Bluff will be just to the east of that new walkway, adjacent to the Four Seasons Hotel. Runoff creates a lot of erosion there, Trail Foundation executive director Heidi Anderson said. The landscaping will help curb that in a way that adds to, rather than detracts from, the beauty of the trail.
Trail users can also expect to see crews working all around the lake in the coming weeks.
“We’re doing a lot of tree pruning, a lot of invasive removals along the shoreline,” Anderson said. Ecological restoration, as they call it, is also on the list of 15th anniversary projects.
The next physical addition to the trail will be a new restroom at Festival Beach on the east side of Interstate 35. Anderson expects to break ground on that in January or February.
More ambitious projects, such as the Seaholm Waterfront transformation, will take far more time than the few years the foundation has set out for the list of 15 it’s already started on. Some of the planning and site prep for that overhaul can start now, Anderson said, but the funding for the bulk of the work is still up in the air.
The Trail Foundation has a history of completing big, ambitious projects, though. The boardwalk, a section of the trail that traverses the southeast side of the lake, clocked in at about $27 million to build.
The foundation’s funds come from private donations and in some cases, like the boardwalk, from the city.
“I think it is just truly one of the gems of our city,” Choban said of the trail. He’s happy to see the foundation working to polish that gem.
“The only thing that I would like them to do,” he said, “is just continue what they’re doing, and that’s to enhance the beauty of the areas along the trail.”