$800M master plan for an east Austin park clears first hurdle

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — From a ferris wheel, to cabins people can rent, the City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department has an ambitious master plan for Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park in east Austin.

The Parks and Recreation Board unanimously voted Tuesday to recommend the City Council approve the master plan.

City officials told the board Walter E. Long Metro Park has a lot of potential because of its size. They said it’s about 3,700 acres including the lake. That means more than 2,500 acres can be available for recreation. They said, that’s about nine times the size of Zilker Park.

The master plan looks at the park in five different sections. They said the park could be home to a wide variety of amenities like a boardwalk, a trail system, disc golf, big and small event spaces, cabins, camping areas and an expo center.

They said it would take at least a decade to transform the park. Its price tag would be $800 million.

Currently, Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park is a popular place to fish.

“We’ve been fishing Decker for at least eight years,” said Andrew Myers.

Leslie Myers said, “There’s so much being developed all around, so having a place like this, this kind of untouched oasis, this piece of nature, it’s really unique and really special.”

They started a Facebook group Save Decker Lake. They said while development all around the park is inevitable, they want the city to preserve this place where people can find some peace and quiet.

Sammy Hall told KXAN he’s been fishing at the park for 35 years. He’s made some long-lasting friendships while fishing there. “Some are deceased and gone. Some are older fishermen. But I’ve watched plenty of children grow up out here. They’re now adults, and they’re still coming,” Hall said.

He said the park can use some basic improvements. “We need bathrooms. We need clean drinkable water,” Hall said.

Myers said: “Really what people want is more access. They want clean and ADA compliant bathrooms, and they want more law enforcement out here. We just want something that’s clean and accessible without having it be over developed and over built up.”

“It would be just such a shame to lose something so fantastic like this so close to Austin,” said Andrew Myers. “You just would never get it back.”

The Austin City Council is scheduled to discuss and vote on the master plan in August.

Parks and Rec officials said each piece of the plan would be implemented in different stages, and the details may change as they proceed with each project.

Andrew Myers said, “The important thing is people that utilize the park now have to be very vocal all the way through the process as individual items are budgeted, as contracts are laid out, and keep our voice heard.”

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