Agency explores future of parks in western TravCo

Travis County will reopen swimming at Hamilton Pool May 1.

Travis County will reopen swimming at Hamilton Pool May 1.

With an eye toward improving and building regional parks and preserves, Travis County is planning to renovate and possibly acquire more recreational green space for its residents.

On Feb. 22, Travis County Parks unveiled its long-range plan for the 9,666-acre system complete with 26 public park sites. Although Travis County Parks serves the entire county, it is primarily responsible for building and maintaining parks in the unincorporated areas of Travis County.

The agency has been focused on conservation and increasing its parkland, said Wendy Scaperotta, Travis County Parks Planning Project manager.

“We are setting the priorities for the [next 10 years],” she said during a March 29 presentation at Bee Cave City Hall. “It’s pretty simple: we want to focus on building regional parks and preserves, and we also want to focus on building greenways and river corridors.”

Greenways are recreation areas and river corridors include the land along waterways.

Plan development

To develop the park concept plan, Travis County Parks staff divided the county into four regions using the Colorado River and lakes to separate the north and south regions, and MoPac, along with the Edwards Plateau—or Balcones Fault—to separate the east and west regions, Scaperotta said.

“This allows us to set priorities so we have four top priorities [for each region] versus having one top priority for the county,” she said. “And [it allows us to] look at things in more detail.”

The proposed plan will be used to build upon the acquisitions and renovations funded by 2005 and 2011 voter-approved bonds, Scaperotta said.

The agency analyzed the park system’s basic recreational facilities, including boat ramps, sports facilities and trails, she said. An online survey was created to accommodate more public input on the plan. Presentations were conducted to obtain resident and park user feedback.

Scaperotta said recreational facility changes usually stem from citizens requesting improvements—as was the case with adding the observatory and equestrian trails at Reimers Ranch Park.

“We look to this [public input] process to identify what are the things that we may be missing when you just look at the basic recreational facility menus,” she said.

Southwestern Travis County

Most of the future population growth in the southwest planning area is predicted to occur within the cities of Austin, Bee Cave, Lakeway and West Lake Hills—communities with a 2014 median age of 41 and household income of $108,851, plan documents state. This planning area includes Lake Travis, the Pedernales River and creeks that drain into these water bodies.

The proposal for the southwest planning area includes:

  • Acquiring parkland in the Pedernales River corridor;

  • Developing an overnight campground at Reimers Ranch Park, which currently is dedicated to day use only, and expanding its trail system;

  • Improving Pace Bend Park’s day use areas and developing campgrounds; and

  • Acquiring strategic properties along Lake Travis.

“We really want to make [Reimers Ranch Park] more accessible by having campground facilities and then expanding the trail system there,” Scaperotta said. “The placeholder is strategic land acquisition. [Strategic land acquisition] is very much opportunity driven. It’s the sort of thing we would pursue if [land] provides access to a really important resource such as the lake, if it protects a park boundary [or] if it completes a park boundary.”

Northwestern Travis County

Most of the future population growth in the northwest park planning area is predicted to be concentrated in the cities of Austin, Cedar Park, Jonestown, Lago Vista and Leander—communities with a 2014 median age of 38 and household income of $83,108, plan documents state. This planning area includes two major creeks that drain to Lake Travis—Big Sandy Creek and Cypress Creek. 

The proposal for the northwest planning area includes:

  • Developing Trails End Preserve to support recreational day use by adding basic facilities and infrastructure;

  • Improving Bob Wentz Park facilities;

  • Improving the Hippie Hollow Park entrance area; and

  • Acquiring strategic properties along Lake Travis.

“[Trails End Preserve] is coming in as part of a [Balcones Canyonlands Preserve] land acquisition, so we will make improvements there,” Scaperotta said. “Bob Wentz [Park] is in need of some attention it hasn’t had. [It was] built in the ‘90s and the same for Hippie Hollow [Park].”

The Balcones Canyonlands Preserve is land that is preserved, or set aside for endangered species, to allow development to occur elsewhere in the county.

Next Steps

Following the May 1 end of the public comment period, parks staff are reviewing the draft plan and resident suggestions, making final revisions to the proposed plan, Scaperotta said. The revised plan will be reintroduced for additional public comment before it is presented to the Travis County Commissioners Court for adoption, which may happen at the end of July or beginning of August, she said.

Once a final plan is approved by the court, parks staff will develop a cost estimate for the projects and the court may schedule a bond election to fund the improvements.

However, Bob Moore, executive assistant to Gerald Daugherty, Travis County commissioner for Precinct 3, said the planned parks projects are not guaranteed to occur.

“We’ve got a couple of different bonds and then we have to get this big courthouse issue taken care of,” he said. “That courthouse is driving some of the future bond issues as they move forward.”