Construction to begin on Northern Walnut Creek Trail


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and photojournalist DOUG NAUGLE

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

Posted on February 21, 2013 at 7:33 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 18 at 12:58 AM

AUSTIN -- It has come to be known as the "trail to nowhere." The hike and bike trail in North Austin that starts, and stops; then starts again, and stops again.

"When we first discovered it, a couple of years ago, it was sort of like, what was here before? What was it for," said Beth Danziger, who runs on the trail. "Because some is concrete, some of it is not. Some of the concrete is eroding away. And it looks like it was started and kind of abandoned by the City or someone."

The North Walnut Creek Trail story dates back to 2002 when the city received grant money to build a Walnut Creek Greenbelt.

"The grant money wasn't enough to build the full project, so we had to identify some other city funds to go with it to build the project, and that took a long time," explained City of Austin Assistant Public Works Director Keri Juarez. 

By "a long time," Juarez means years.

Back then, the trail cost about $3 million. Help came in 2009 with $1.99 million in federal funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In 2010 construction finally started.

"Once we got under construction, we realized that there were some problems with the design," said Juarez. 

The City had to fire the design and construction teams and go back to the drawing board. Now the cost to finish what the City started almost 11 years ago is $5,928,096.70. Money that partly comes from bonds passed in 1998 and 2006, along with other Parks and Recreation Department money.

"I don't know much about how much things cost, but that does sound like a lot of money," said Danziger.

The roughly $6 million builds a 3.2 mile separated hike and bike trail connecting Balcones Park to Walnut Creek Park. It will be ten feet wide, with two foot shoulders and seven bridges.

People who live in the area and use the existing trail say they like the idea, but have concerns. For starters, the concrete.

"This is just an escape from the big city concrete that we already have," said Cody Krcha who runs on the trail. "You know it's just a nice, green oasis to kind of escape to and you don't have to go into the country to find it."

And there are plans for an elevated portion that will run behind people's homes. Walnut Crossing Neighborhood Association President Kerner Hornburg says it will be 19 feet high.

"It's practically a highway back in the woods. It's not acceptable," said Hornburg. "We understand from the city that they intend to modify the plans as they move along and it's pretty much, trust us."

Construction on the trail will begin in the middle of March and is set to be complete by February 2014. But this is only the beginning. The entire greenbelt will be about 14 miles long. There is no timeline for phase two, which is another 11 miles long. And that project is not funded.