Nonprofit expects to break ground by summertime

Nonprofit Hill Country Conservancy will begin building parts of the Violet Crown Trail in 2014 and 2015, Executive Director George Cofer said.

"What we are trying to do is to get that first segment, from Zilker [Metropolitan] Park to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, built by the end of 2015," he said.

The Violet Crown Trail is a proposed 30-mile network of trails from Zilker Park to south of FM 967 in Hays County. So far, the trail's first phase—5 miles of walkways in Zilker Park—has been built.

Phase 2 will connect Sunset Valley to the Wildflower Center. That phase was split into two parts—Sunset Valley to Dick Nichols Park, and Dick Nichols Park to the Wildflower Center—to minimize project delays.

HCC expects to get construction permits from the city of Austin in February or March.

HCC hopes to break ground on a few segments of the trail in late spring to early summer.

"We have a lot of work to do on the actual design," Cofer said. "We got the construction drawings from [engineering firm] Bury + Partners. We are still working on the theme of the trail [such as signs and benches]."

The actual construction is fairly straightforward, he added.

The local nonprofit plans to raise more funds this spring to complete the project.

"The reason this has taken seven years is because it is expensive work to do—the environmental [work] and engineering," he said. "There have been times we have needed to pause, raise money and then move forward."

HCC must take special care building the trail in a 1-mile segment connecting Zilker Park to Sunset Valley.The golden-cheeked warbler, an endangered species, lives in the Gaines Greenbelt. Cofer said HCC hopes to get environmental approval for the segment from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in early February.

The birds migrate back to the area in March, and that may delay construction until September, he added.