Austin seeking input on future of 'loved to death' Zilker Metropolitan Park

The vision planning process is expected to run into 2022. (John Cox/Community Impact Newspaper)
The vision planning process is expected to run into 2022. (John Cox/Community Impact Newspaper)

The vision planning process is expected to run into 2022. (John Cox/Community Impact Newspaper)

Months into its feedback process for the creation of a future vision plan for Zilker Metropolitan Park, the city of Austin is continuing to solicit feedback on residents' wishes for the future of the landmark recreational space.

Initiated late last summer by City Council, the Zilker vision planning process officially kicked off in early 2021 and has since moved through several small-group and public forums as well as an online survey that generated thousands of responses. The approval of a final vision plan, which will tie together aspects of the park's history, ecology, accessibility and growth for a suite of recommendations to be considered by city officials and planners, is not expected until next spring at the earliest.



According to the city, Zilker is now visited daily by thousands of guests for access to amenities ranging from trails and waterways to sports facilities and special events. Gregory Montes, program coordinator at the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, said the park's status and attention have also come with a rising tide of issues such as accessibility and environmental restoration the new plan will be crafted to take on.

“I think the overall state of the park is that it’s probably loved to death. It’s extremely popular, and so it’s experiencing high visitation numbers right now, and I think that, that is really impacting the park," Montes said.


The city has already identified some clear needs at Zilker, such as restoration of damaged portions of the property and the expansion of parking and other mobility components. With those in mind however, Montes also said Austin and consultants with Design Workshop—contracted at up to $600,000 to facilitate the plan—need ongoing public consideration of the park's future to reflect the diverse desires of its users.

The initial virtual survey for the vision planning process showed thousands of respondents who were attracted mainly to the park's natural amenities and signature events, and who had mixed opinions on their performance. While many natural features were shown as being among survey-takers' favorites, components such as trails and natural areas were top areas also being marked for improvement.


Comments solicited through the survey and the project's first open public meeting in June were also mixed on topics ranging from the expansion of park facilities, the presence of larger events such as the Austin City Limits festival and how parking should be incorporated into the park's landscape.


“When you have over 2 million people visiting the park [annually], they’re going to have ideas; they’re going to have a vision; they’re going to have opinions," Montes said. "It’s only fair that we take in all that input and really process it to get a better understanding of what is rising to the top in terms of importance to the community that uses this park.”

For now, the city is moving ahead with more public engagement opportunities to gather as much feedback as possible for the crafting of the first comprehensive plan in the 350-acre park's century-plus history. Project leaders are planning to visit each City Council district throughout July to speak in person with residents about the vision plan as well, and more community meetings and pop-ups are planned through the remainder of 2021.



Montes said a finalized plan is expected to begin moving toward a green light from council next spring, although the focus on Zilker could stretch the city's approval process out over several months.

“As we continue to get closer and closer and move the ball down the field, and we get closer to the approval process where we go to boards and commissions, sometimes our plans start to stall out because of concerns that people are bringing," Montes said. "With this much attention and visitation and as much of the status that it carries throughout the city, I would imagine that once we start getting closer to that point of approval process, we’re probably going to experience some of that. But the hope is that we’ll work through those with the boards and commissions ... early next year."

More information on the vision plan, project materials and public meeting details are available through the city of Austin webpage. Anyone interested in sharing their experiences at Zilker may also contribute thoughts through the plan's SpeakUp Austin engagement page.
By Ben Thompson

Austin City Hall Reporter

Ben joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2019 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Northeastern University in Boston. After spending more than two years covering in The Woodlands area, he moved to Austin in 2021 to cover City Hall and other news throughout the city.



MOST RECENT

The new 35-story building overlooks Lady Bird Lake and Shoal Creek. (Trent Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Workers celebrate topping out of Austin 'sailboat building' concrete structure

Workers who contribute to the construction of the Block 185 building celebrated topping off the structure, a big milestone for the development project that began in 2019.

A system to identify at-risk Austin Police Department employees has not been effective. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Audit finds Austin police system to flag at-risk officers is failing

Austin's city auditor and police chief agree the police department's computer program to identify at-risk officers is not fulfilling its mission.

A rise in COVID-19 cases has Travis County back in stage 4. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Austin reverts to Stage 4 guidelines with rising delta variant cases

As delta variant COVID -19 cases are sending more young people to local ICUs, The Austin-Travis County Health Authority has moved the area back to guidelines that require masks indoors.

Opening day at Q2 Stadium
US men’s soccer team to visit Q2 Stadium this fall

The U.S. men's national team will host Jamaica for a FIFA World Cup qualifier game on Oct. 7.

Capital Metro is hosting a series of virtual meetings to hear feedback from the community on the latest Project Connect designs. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Capital Metro seeks community input on latest Project Connect design

Want to have your voice heard about Project Connect? Tune in to the upcoming virtual meetings.

Leander Marketplace PUD would be located at the northeast corner of Hero Way and US 183. (Screenshot courtesy city of Leander)
Leander eyes development with restaurants, retail; Bin Drop opens in New Braunfels and more top Central Texas news

Read the top business and community news from the past week from the Central Texas area.

Dozens of Austin residents spoke virtually and in person July 22 to share their thoughts on the city's proposed fiscal year 2021-22 budget. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Police funding again takes center stage in public hearing on Austin's proposed FY 2021-22 budget

Dozens of city residents calling into or appearing at City Hall on July 22 shared their thoughts about policing and the city's spending plan.

Mortgage purchase applications are down year over year, but the Austin housing market remains hot. (Benton Graham/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin housing market still hot but showing signs of slowing down

Experts say that a decrease in mortgage purchase applications points to “a reversion back to norm” in the Austin housing market.

Peter Lake (left), chair of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, and Brad Jones, interim president and CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, provided an update on state regulators' electric grid redesign efforts in Austin on July 22. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Regulators: Texas electric grid prepared for potentially record-breaking demand next week; 'once-in-a-generation reforms' underway

The heads of the agencies in charge of the Texas electric grid met in Austin on July 22 to provide updates on their grid reform efforts.

Z'Tejas margarita
Where to celebrate National Tequila Day this year around Austin

From mezcal bars to frozen margarita specials, here is a list of places to celebrate National Tequila Day on July 24.