Woods of Westlake calls for closure of its greenbelt access, citing public safety hazards

The Woods of Westlake homeowners association has reported public intoxication and other safety hazards at its Barton Creek Greenbelt trailhead. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact)
The Woods of Westlake homeowners association has reported public intoxication and other safety hazards at its Barton Creek Greenbelt trailhead. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact)

The Woods of Westlake homeowners association has reported public intoxication and other safety hazards at its Barton Creek Greenbelt trailhead. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact)

When the Barton Creek Greenbelt’s “Trails End” access in the Wood of Westlake community was established by the city of Austin in the 1980s, it was never intended to serve as a permanent trailhead, according to Christie Schultz, the interim president for the Woods of Westlake neighborhood association.

More than 30 years later the narrow entrance on Scottish Woods Trail sees about 1,000 daily visitors, which Schultz stated it is severely unequipped for. From neighborhood disputes to public intoxication and littering, Schultz and her neighbors said they have witnessed what they call the unfortunate results of housing a trailhead with little to no supporting infrastructure.

A petition approaching 1,000 supporters was drafted by the Wood of Westlake homeowners association in early June, which seeks to characterize what the document describes as years of dangerous behavior and potential ecological damage. The group also sent a letter to Austin Transportation Department Director Robert Spillar to request metered parking, routine patrolling and increased signage.

“While we support public access to the city park, there has to be some kind of compromise and solution,” the letter states.

Following the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, city officials indefinitely closed primary greenbelt access June 2, which included the Trails End access, but Schultz said the greenbelt issues will proceed once it reopens.

Due to the lack of public parking, restrooms and policing, Schultz said the entry point poses several safety hazards, and she has witnessed public nudity and frequent public intoxication. Neighbors have even opened their mailboxes to find empty beer cans, she said.

“We just don’t go outside,” Schultz said. “The neighbors don’t send their kids to ride bikes anymore; there’s just too much traffic.”

One proposed solution has been the implementation of a new pilot parking program on Scottish Woods Trail, near Camp Craft Road, which is set to launch as early as mid-July, according to Sam Haynes, a public information specialist for the transportation department.

Haynes said the department has been working closely with residents and will conduct stakeholder outreach prior to rolling out the program, which experienced delays due to the current greenbelt closure.

Further details have not been released, but Haynes said the program will not include the installation of parking meters.

While Schultz said she believes this will deter some visitors from entering the trailhead, traffic is not the only issue.

The neighboring Lost Creek community in the Westlake area has reported similar concerns regarding its greenbelt access, leading the Lost Creek Limited District to vote May 13 to charge nonresidents utilizing the entrance point.

Schultz said Lost Creek residents have seen some success from this initiative; however, Wood of Westlake is not a limited district and would be unable to enact a similar fee system.

“We’re part of Austin,” Schultz said. “Technically, the city of Austin is supposed to be maintaining that trail. ... We don’t own anything with regard to that entrance.”

According to Schultz, the HOA is open to possibly contracting private security to ensure residents’ safety but would require a method for recuperating costs as well as further information into the legality of private patrolling.

In the event the situation does not improve, Schultz said the HOA believes the access point should be relocated to an area better equipped to handle the influx of visitors.

“It’s not about a privileged neighborhood wanting the trail to ourselves. ... It’s not about making it exclusive for the neighbors, and it’s certainly not about closing down access,” Schultz said. “It’s about making it safe so that everyone can coexist.”


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