Group consults Coast Guard, Travis County on watch options
When Phase 1 of the North Walnut Creek Trail opens in late 2014, area residents want to know how the city will patrol it.
The first phase runs from Balcones District Park to the Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park. The city plans to start building Phase 2, which will continue to the Girl Scouts of Central Texas building near I-35, in August 2015.
Because funding for the trail comes from the Texas Department of Transportation, the Public Works Department will be responsible for maintaining the trail instead of the Parks and Recreation Department.
On March 31, residents from the Gracywoods and Walnut Creek neighborhoods met with Travis County Precinct 2 Constable Adan Ballesteros, Sgt. Craig Hutchinson from the Travis County Sheriff’s office and two members of the local Coast Guard to discuss options for reporting illegal activity and other issues.
“Nobody wants to stop the trail; we’re just not getting good answers on how this will get handled,” said Gracywoods resident Mary Rudig, who invited the Coast Guard into the discussion because of its involvement in flooding and wildfire issues.
Robert Meadows, president of the Walnut Creek Neighborhood Association, said residents are worried about transients using the trail and having access to the inner parts of neighborhoods and the park.
“We view this overall as a positive because we can get to [Walnut Creek] park without a car, but we also view it as a crime highway,” he said.
Jacob Thayer, a commander in Flotilla Austin for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, said residents’ best option for reporting suspicious activity such as hazardous spills in the creek would be to contact the Americas Waterway Watch or the National Weather Service for flooding issues.
Rudig said residents would like to see a curfew implemented on the trail and have it marked so emergency responders can find the location of emergencies. She said she would like to get the city’s 311 information service and Austin fire and police departments involved in coming up with solutions for a watch group.
Project Manager Richard Duane said the city is working with emergency responders on vehicle access to the trail and plans to provide mile markers for easy identification if an issue should arise.
He said the city will meet with the community when the design is 60 percent complete on Phase 2, which will address some of the residents’ concerns.