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Austin City Council to vote on plan to save Zilker Zephyr

On Feb. 20th, the city council will discuss an agreement with Austin Parks Foundation to find a vendor to oversee the repair and operation of the train.

AUSTIN, Texas — Decades of fun came to an end when the operator of the Zilker Zephyr, Texas Special Inc., shut down this famous train that ran through Zilker Park. 

Austin leaders will take a vote at the end of February that could renew hope it will operate again.

Slated on their agenda for Feb. 20, Austin City Council will consider a resolution to accept "charitable assistance" and opportunities for "philanthropic giving" from anyone who wants to save the train. 

Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk will be tasked with creating an agreement with the Austin Parks Foundation (APF) that allows them to help find a new train vendor and oversee the operations of the train.

APF is a nonprofit that has partnered with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department for the past 27 years.

Revenue from the train will be distributed to nonprofit organizations within and around Zilker Park, according to the council's proposed resolution. 


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Cronk will also find contractors to make the critical engineering repairs caused by a rainstorm that eroded the tracks in May of 2019, a part of the reason the owner decided to close it altogether in January 2020.

If Cronk doesn't find anyone to carry out those repairs, services and operations of the tracks, the resolution states he will look towards alternatives, such as accepting monetary donations and donation of services in order to "allow for the safe operation of the train," according to the City document. 

Texas Special told Austin Parks and Recreation repairs of the tracks would cost approximately $250,000, based on an estimate provided by a licensed engineer. 

The Zilker Zephyr gave its last ride at the beginning of February. Texas Special then removed the train and also attempted to remove the tracks that same week. However, the city filed a lawsuit claiming the tracks belong to them.

If the city council passes this resolution, Cronk will have until June 30, 2020, to report back to the council with his findings. 

The Austin Parks Foundation sent KVUE the following statement regarding Zilker Zephyr:

"Austin Parks Foundation has been a trusted partner of the Parks and Recreation Department for nearly 30 years and together we are dedicated stewards of our city's public parks. We know how much the Zilker Park train means to our city, and we share in the cherished memories the community holds of this beloved outdoor attraction. We are enthusiastic about the possibility of helping get the train up and running again quickly and safely for Austin kids and families."

RELATED VIDEO: City searching for new Zilker Zephyr operator


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