Community members and city staffers celebrated the long-awaited opening of the Northern Walnut Creek Trail in North Austin on May 21.

The first phase of the trail is 3.2 miles long and runs from Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park to under MoPac near Balcones District Park. The concrete trail includes three trailheads and nine bridges. Other access points to the trail are from Gracywoods Park and from Lincolnshire Drive east of Metric Boulevard and north of Gracy Farms Lane.

“This trail in many ways symbolizes everything that’s good about Austin,” said Howard Lazarus, director of the city’s Public Works Department.

Northern Walnut Creek Trail Representatives from the community and city of Austin celebrated the grand opening of the Northern Walnut Creek Trail on May 21.[/caption]

He said the trail is part of the city’s overall urban trail network designed to connect all parts of the city from North Austin to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and from Oak Hill to Manor.

“These trails not only connect us but they provide ways for us to get in touch with nature, to be healthier and to provide pathways to prosperity, they are the best of us when they are completed,” he said.

Sara Hensley, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, said planning for the Walnut Creek Trail has been going on since 1993.

“This is a wonderful amenity for the citizens of Austin and visitors alike to help people get from one place to another, but also to provide a healthy opportunity for walking and biking,” she said. “It brings all walks of life out and our furry friends as well.”

The project faced many setbacks since City Council approved the first design contract in 2003. Last year when some residents feared the final phase of the project had stalled, District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool, whose district includes the area near the trail, stepped in to bring all the parties together to discuss the issues.

“This is a really good example of how it was effort on everybody’s part,” she said.

Future plans

The city is still working on Phase 1A that ultimately will connect the trail to the pool at Balcones park, said Clay Harris, a project manager with the Public Works Department.

He said construction begins this summer on the first part of that final segment from MoPac to the Balcones ballparks. That will be complete in 2017 and then construction will start on the final segment to the pool, and that will be finished in 2018.

Harris said many factors led to this final segment taking longer to design and build. The trail will comply with Americans with Disabilities Act standards, and he said the topography in that area made it more difficult. The project is also being done in coordination with Austin Water to install a larger wastewater system to replace the Waters Park water main.

Lazarus said the original plan had called for a large concrete structure neighbors thought would not be visually pleasing so staffers worked to find a better design.

“Trails like this one are proof that when we work together, while it may take us a while to get there at times, the end results are always worth the struggle,” he said.