The city of Austin is home to more than 300 parks, but there’s always room for more, especially when we’re talking about accessible green space in the highly urbanized and rapidly growing downtown area. Waller Creek is a one and a half mile riparian ecosystem that begins at Waterloo Park and travels south along the eastern edge of downtown Austin to converge with Lady Bird Lake.
In partnership with the City of Austin and thanks to a $15 million grant from the Moody Foundation–the largest amount for parks and public open space ever gifted in the city of Austin–Waller Creek Conservancy will break ground on Phase 1 of its revitalization project later this year, beginning with Waterloo Park.
Once complete, the Waller Creek District will feature pedestrian and bicycle paths that connect a chain of four distinct urban parks located along a restored and ecologically sustainable waterway. The one and a half mile stretch will also include an elevated promenade, Children’s Spring, Hill Country Garden, Wetland Terrace, Water Garden, and Moody Amphitheater at Waterloo Park.
Waller Creek, Austin’s Cultural Corridor
Waller Creek Conservancy, the local nonprofit dedicated to revitalizing the creek, aims to create a dynamic outdoor commons where people can connect through the exploration of nature and a variety of cultural events, activities, and exhibitions.
The conservancy’s CEO, Peter Mullan, is the former Executive Vice President of a well-known New York City-based nonprofit, Friends of the High Line. For those who are unfamiliar, the High Line is a public park built on a historical freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side.
Through a public-private partnership with the city, Friends of the High Line transformed a disused rail line into a beautiful, green urban passageway and cultural event space. Mullan’s vision for Waller Creek is similar: “The creek has the ability to be a unifying spine for the district, a place where nature, culture, and community come together.”
Opportunity for Renewed Urban Greening
In 2010, Austin City Council recognized that once the Waller Creek Tunnel was complete, there would be opportunities for surface improvement. Thus, Waller Creek Conservancy was formed. Before the existence of the tunnel, which removed 28 acres of land from the 100-year floodplain, the eastern edge of downtown Austin had remained largely undeveloped.
An international design competition was held in 2011 that called upon innovative landscape architects and artists “to join forces and present their ideas for remaking a currently fragmented and undervalued section of Austin into a vibrant, livable, workable district,” according to the organization’s website.
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc. and Thomas Phifer & Partners, both of New York City, were announced as the selected design team in 2012. Since that time, the conservancy has been costing and phasing, raising funds, and hosting community events.
Getting Involved Is a Picnic in the Park
On Saturday, April 8, grab a blanket and those you fancy and head to Palm Park for the 5th Annual Waller Creek Pop-Up Picnic, starting at 6:30 p.m. Nosh on a gourmet spread and enjoy live music as you watch the sun disappear behind the Austin skyline.
You can support the revitalization of Waller Creek by purchasing a picnic basket curated by some of Austin’s top chefs. Baskets start at $40 for two and can be purchased online at wallercreekpicnic.org. All proceeds from picnic baskets benefit Waller Creek Conservancy.
Participating restaurants include Blue Dahlia Bistro, Café No Sé, Clark’s Oyster Bar, Easy Tiger, Franklin Barbecue, Home Slice Pizza, Justine’s, Kemuri Tatsu-Ya, La Condesa, Lucy’s Fried Chicken, Olamaie, Salt Lick BBQ, Sway, and Uchiko.
For more information about upcoming events and opportunities to get involved, visit the Waller Creek Conservancy website.
–> Continue reading: “GenWaller Brings Young Professionals Together for Austin Conservancy”
@theAustinot wants to know:
Which of Austin’s public parks do you enjoy most?