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$800 million in improvements possibly coming to Walter E. Long Park

Dozens of amenities laid out in the plan include a marina, an event lawn, a planetarium and a Ferris wheel.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin Parks and Recreation Board reportedly endorsed a plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars for improvements at Walter E. Long Park Metropolitan Park.

According to KUT, the master plan calls for investing more than $800 million to transform the 3,700-acre park. Dozens of features that are laid out in the plan reportedly include a marina, an event lawn, a planetarium and a Ferris wheel.

Credit: Austin Parks and Recreation Department
The plan includes an event lawn for music events, athletic activities and other gatherings.

"I think it would just be something beautiful, especially for Austin," said Micaela Prieto, a cashier at the park. "I mean, we'd be getting a lot more people, new people, coming in and experiencing the whole Austin scene

If the master plan is approved by the city, the first phase would cover about 300 acres at the southern end of the park. The estimated cost for this section is expected to cost $144 million, and that includes $26 million from private funders. 

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Credit: Austin Parks and Recreation
The plan includes a nature center for an equestrian facility, planetarium and camping space.
Credit: Austin Parks and Recreation
The plan includes cabins and a boardwalk along the shore.

The park department reportedly said it is looking at using bond money to cover the cost. However, with a park of this size, they will also need private partners to contribute.

Walter E. Long park is roughly 10 times the size of Zilker, making it the largest park in Austin. Since the park is largely undeveloped, the master plan is meant to be a blueprint for the park's potential.

According to KUT, those in favor of the improvements to Walter E. Long would make it a destination park. Critics argue it would turn the area into more of an amusement park than a green space.

Matt Jester has been going to the lake for a couple of years to fish and boat. 

"As Austin grows, I think the Parks and Rec Department needs to grow as well, so having additional activities out here would probably bring more families out, not just the fishing and the limited access to the water," Jester said. 

He welcomes the changes, but if it does turn the area into more of an amusement park, he said that could change his opinion. 

"If it gets overcrowded, yeah of course. But definitely no – I think it's just, it's an easy place to come living in town, so I don't think that'll change," he said.

Prieto is looking forward to the new customers it could bring to the park. 

"I think it would be a big change but it'll add a lot more fun for the children themselves, so it would be nice," she said. "We'll be here to help everybody out. This is the beginning of something new."

Austin City Council is expected to make the final approval on the master plan in August or September.

For more information about the Walter E. Long Park master plan, click here.

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