On Feb. 22, Travis County Parks unveiled its long-range plan for the 9,666-acre county park 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 amount of 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.
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.
“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.
Northeastern Travis County
The plan for the northeastern region—containing Pflugerville, Manor and parts of northeast Austin—is to build a trail that connects the Northeast Metro Park southward to the Colorado River. The length of the trail is estimated to be approximately 15 miles.
“We’re buying parkland already, so to do the next phase—build the trail, restrooms, picnic areas, playgrounds and all the amenities along the trail—we would have to go out for a bond election, so that’s somewhat of an unknown,” Scaperotta said.
She said the entire process could take years, and the initial proposed long-range plan sets the priorities, with more detailed planning to take shape at the county level for officials’ approval.
“The county will do the more detailed planning, and then we’ll bring it out to the public and get their input—it’s a multi-step process,” she said.
Scaperotta emphasized funding for the project would also depend on approval of a bond election that would come before Travis County voters.
“Travis County commissioners have to decide when they are fiscally comfortable with taking a bond package out to the voters—that could be in two years, five or six years—but that’s the big question, and that’s what will really drive the schedule. Folks are obviously concerned about affordability in the community, and this includes members of the Commissioners Court as well,” Scaperotta said.
Now that the May 1 public comment period has ended, 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.”
Reporting contributed by Brenda Young