Shoal Creek Hike and Bike Trail damaged by 'slope failure'

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Part of the Shoal Creek Hike and Bike Trail is closed after Friday’s storm created what the city is calling a slope failure.

“It's a mess,” said Richard Craig who lives along the creek. 

The trail is barricaded between 24th and 25th streets where the damage occurred. 

“The Lamar sidewalk will be the alternative, but this was the more pleasant route to downtown,” Craig said.

The city believes there is a history of slope failures along Shoal Creek, but it hasn't happened since 1998. At that time the city used fencing to solve the problem.

“And it looks like it may not last looking at it today,” said Craig. 

The Watershed Protection Department said Friday’s trail damage is a result of a slope failure. It happens when the limestone is fractured, causing it to slide on the clay beneath it. Friday's rain likely made the situation worse. 

“I wish they had put rebar and concrete to make the limestone blocks adhere together better. Seems like that would've been a no-brainer. Any construction project should want additional strength rather than just stacking the heavy blocks,” Craig said. 

With so much debris from the trail now blocking the creek, the city and Craig share a major concern. 

“What would we do if we have a really heavy rain? What would happen?” Craig asked.  

Craig also worries what this could mean for the recently completed $4 million bond project to stabilize and improve Shoal Creek.  

“This project goes all the way down through Pease Park and they've used limestone blocks like this through the entire route, so are we destined to have failure down the rest of this stretch?” questioned Craig.  

However, a memorandum from watershed protection and parks and recreation reads in part "The hike and bike trail improvements were very likely not a contributing factor in the cause of this massive slope failure, but were impacted by it." 

Properties on Wooldridge Drive were also affected by the incident. Pictures from watershed protection show the significant damage to several backyards. 

“I'm not one of those houses, but, if I was them, I'd be looking at my backyard now and be very concerned,” Craig said.  

With May typically bringing the most rain of the year to the Austin area, fixing the problem needs to happen quickly, although Craig said it looks like it could take years to reconstruct. 

“They've got a real problem on their hands and it's going to take some smart people to figure it out,” said Craig. 

Watershed protection said multiple city departments are working to come up with a short term and long term solution to the situation. 

The hike and bike trail will remain closed until all safety concerns can be properly addressed.