Episode 18 | September 18, 2018
The Trail Foundation (TTF), partners with the City of Austin to protect and enhance the Ann and Roy Butler Hike & Bike Trail on Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake). Beth Carroll, landscape architect and Project & Creative Director for TTF, chats with hosts Kyle Frazier and Sherren Harter about the award-winning, sustainable bathrooms along Butler Trail, the Boardwalk that has become an integral part of downtown Austin, and the 15 projects TTF is taking on over the next five years as it celebrates its 15th anniversary.
Beth Carroll worked at a corporate landscape architecture firm before joining The Trail Foundation eight years ago. Today she works to help protect and enhance the Butler Trail park corridor, the city’s beloved green space that lies deep in the heart of Austin. As the Project and Creative Director, she has been involved in efforts to make the trail more beautiful and functional, from bathrooms to the Boardwalk to ecological restoration. By raising private funds and partnering with the city, TTF has been able to extend what would have otherwise been possible, demonstrating what is possible with a successful public-private partnership.
Solving the Potty Problem
Beth has become a self-proclaimed “potty expert” as TTF has gained experience addressing trail users’ most requested trail feature. The result is an innovative series of restroom facilities that have won awards for design and sustainability.
1. Miró Rivera Restroom at the foot of Rainey Street
2. Johnson Creek Restroom under Mopac on the north side of the lake, which Beth says “has become a gateway to the trail”
3. Heron Creek Restroom across Cesar Chavez from the Town Lake YMCA
4. Festival Beach Restroom east of I-35, which was designed with the community’s cultural identity in mind
Balancing Nature with Development
Ecological restoration has a unique twist because the trail was developed on a manmade lake that remains at a constant level. Beth notes that the river “in its natural state would be regularly flooded, so a lot of the vegetation has happened as that lake was dammed off on either side.” The focus of TTF, then, is on encouraging native establishment.
One of their biggest challenges is the popularity of the trail, which welcomes 2.6 million visitors annually. “There’s this balancing of the natural environment with the demands and the wants of people accessing the water,” Beth notes. “We have a lot of efforts in place right now to figure out how to get people where they want to be down by the water while also being careful to restore the sensitive riparian areas.”
A key initiative for TTF is planting shade trees on the east side because of the disparity in shade cover throughout the trail. Planting native species and removing invasives also helps to avoid shoreline erosion, filter the water, and beautify the area.
While the work of The Trail Foundation puts Austin’s Butler Trail on the national map for its leadership, Beth also finds inspiration in other parks across the United States, especially The Highline in New York which was rescued from demolition and restored to an iconic feature for the City. Still, there is something to admire and to learn about every urban park, from the Minneapolis park system to Klyde Warren Park and Katy Trail in Dallas.
As with other urban parks, the Butler Trail must consider big-picture issues including ecology, population growth and encroachment, preservation and restoration, financial support through a broad array of public and private partnerships, energy usage including electricity (lighting) and water, and connectivity.
In the middle of all that is a 10-mile trail that serves as the hub into which the other trails feed as well as a park of mini-neighborhoods, each with their own unique personality. Those range from the pastoral and quiet Festival Beach to the festival grounds and “city-wide back yards” of Auditorium Shores and Zilker Park. The trail is simply, as Beth says, “unlike any other space in the city.”
How You Can Help Build on Fifteen Years of Progress
To celebrate its fifteenth anniversary this year, TTF has announced 15 projects over the next five years. These include the Festival Beach Restroom, the Brazos Bluff rain garden and deck in front of the Four Seasons, and a trailhead at Holly Point that will connect Bartholomew Park to Butler Trail via a new EastLink Trail.
There are many opportunities to support TTF to bring those projects to life and to help protect what we love. Here are just a few:
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