AUSTIN — As floodgates remain open Thursday at multiple dams across the Highland Lakes, the Austin Parks and Recreation Department and the Austin Fire Department have closed the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail along with enforcing a waterway ban.
Due to heavy rain, large amounts of water are flowing toward Austin waterways. No watercraft will be allowed on all Austin waterways like Lake Austin and Lady Bird Lake until noon on Oct. 23. If there are special conditions, such as emergency repairs or recovery of property, you are asked to call the Austin Police Department's Lake Patrol at 512-329-8841 to obtain permission to be on the water.
Levels in Lady Bird Lake have the potential to increase two to three feet in the next couple days, which poses a safety risk along the trail. Trails could be impacted by water, erosion and other hazards. Austin police sent some of their officers out on four wheeler ATVs Thursday morning to the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail. The officers were trying to get people off the trail in case water levels got worse as the day progressed.
The parks department strongly encourages park patrons not to use the trail during this closure. Citizens are asked to obey signage and not enter closed trails. This closure is to help prevent injuries due to the possibility of high waters and unstable conditions.
Joni Holder lives in Austin and walks her dog along the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail almost every day. While she said she's never seen the water on Lady Bird Lake that high before, she doesn't mind the change in weather.
"I have done triathlons in this water where I swim in this place right here, so it's high, fast, deep and dark," Holder said. "To me, it's exciting as long as everybody's safe. And it's a relief after the hot, dry summer."
According to Travis County Emergency Services, other closures include all creeks in the COA area, Lake Austin from Mansfield Dam to Tom Miller Dam, Lady Bird Lake, Colorado River downstream of Longhorn Dam, Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail, Barton Creek Greenbelt, Barton Creek Pool, Deep Eddy Pool and City golf courses.
The water level slowly rose throughout the afternoon as the waters rapidly flowed downstream. Plenty of debris was visible in the waterway.
Austin police have also been out patrolling the lake, making sure no one was violating the watercraft ban.
KVUE also saw quite a few people on the trail before crews shut down the entrances near the Stevie Ray Vaughn statue.
The rising waters caused enough concern for the Austin Independent School District to cancel all after school activities at nearby Austin High school. Students there also got out early this afternoon.
KVUE spoke with some other people who were also still out on the trails near Lady Bird Lake. It's a hot spot for exercise and for people walking their dogs.
"I actually come every day probably like two to three times a day. Don't even risk it even if there's a little bit of water. Turn around -- don't even risk it and get stuck in the water," said Cindy Larotta, an Austin resident.
A lot of people who walk their pets didn't realize at first that the trail was closed.
"I've never seen it closed. It didn't even come to mind that that would be a thing," said Blair Gallacher, an Austin resident.