Austin councilman’s proposed Fire Break Parkway ignites opposition

Fire Break Parkway District 6 Councilman Don Zimmerman said his proposed Fire Break Parkway would connect fire stations No. 39 and No. 44 and serve as an escape corridor for residents during wildfires.[/caption]

A proposed roadway aimed at providing an escape route during wildfires has prompted opposition from some Northwest Austin residents.


District 6 City Councilman Don Zimmerman discussed the proposed Fire Break Parkway at an April 25 town hall meeting at Four Points Middle School.


The proposed parkway would begin at Spicewood Springs Road and cut through land protected by the Balcones Canyonland Conservation Plan, which the city of Austin and Travis County oversee. The southern end of the roadway would be split, with one road ending at River Place Boulevard and the other road ending near Four Points middle and Vandegrift high schools.


Lt. Randy Denzer of the Austin Firefighters Association said the road would connect Fire Station No. 39 on River Place and Fire Station No. 44 on Four Iron Drive, allowing the two stations to work together as well as serve as a corridor for escape. Denzer said when he responded to the 2011 Labor Day wildfire in Steiner Ranch, firefighters struggled to get resources to the area.


Nearly all of the attendees who spoke at the meeting were against the proposal.


“I put the odds at about 2 percent … of getting that [roadway] done, but we’re going to go for it anyway,” Zimmerman said.


Resident Malcolm Brown asked Zimmerman why he did not lobby for a project that has a more of a chance of coming to fruition.


“Why are you going after this?” he said. “There’re more important things to be done.”


Zimmerman said the proposal was more likely to get approval than other road projects in the area.


After the meeting, Brown called Fire Break Parkway a smoke screen, saying it was really a cut-through to ease traffic congestion.


The BCCP Coordinating Committee governs the conservation plan, and its secretary, Willy Conrad, said the committee has not discussed Fire Break Parkway because it has not received a formal proposal.


Conrad said any proposal to build a road through protected land would require approval from the Coordinating Committee, City Council and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


The proposed road would fall into Zimmerman’s District 6 and Councilwoman Sheri Gallo’s District 10. In an email, Gallo said she does not yet have a position on the proposal.



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