City of Austin wants public's help with Zilker Park improvements

If you live in Austin and the surrounding areas, you've probably been to Zilker Park.

"Zilker today is a treasured place for Austinites, but it has a lot of challenges," said Claire Hempel, with Design Workshop, and assigned to the project.

Those challenges come in the form of traffic, accessibility, and environmental challenges. That is why the city chose Hempel to take a look at what we can do.

"The plan should be addressing our immediate concerns now but thinking about Zilker Park’s future," she said.

The city is collecting feedback on three ideas on improvements for Zilker. The first plan is the "stitch plan." It would create a land bridge for a safer way to cross Barton Springs Road, eliminating on street parking on Barton Springs and build a sports complex at the rugby field, to name a few things.

"It’s a stitch concept where we had a sports complex, amplifying the rugby field that is used as a flexible use lawn today. We also tested the idea of moving the sports complex, which is a term for grouping things like volleyball and a baseball field and playfield together into one area," said Hempel.

Plan B, the edges concept looks heavily at parking, and creating consolidated parking areas to make room for more green space. Overall, Hempel said accessibility is a big concern and each plan will look to solve that.

"If you go down to our Barton Springs Pool into what’s known as Barking Springs, where people bring dogs, it’s not ADA accessible. It is kind of a treacherous walk to get down there," she said.

Hempel said erosion in that area is also an environmental concern. In addition, she feels getting around the park can be tough, especially if you're a first timer.

"Once you’re there, if you’re a first time visitor, you might be going for the pool but do you know about the Botanical Garden, or the Nature and Science Center or the Great Trails?" she said.

FOX 7 Austin spoke to Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy officials who agree they are excited about the project and want all that Zilker has to offer to be showcased in plain sight and better connected.

"We are excited that it is going to bring a reinvigorated cohesive plan to all our elements of the park. We are hoping for accessibility for all of Austin and surrounding area. We are looking forward to everyone being able to enjoy every part of the park as easily as possible," said Laura McCabe, operations manager at Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy.

The third option has some changes, but overall keeps a lot of the park as is. The city wants the public to weigh in with a survey that is open until Sunday. You can view all the plans in detail and provide feedback here.

Austin Parks Foundation awards $150K grant to Highland Neighborhood Park
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