Archives for January 2010

The Barton Creek Greenbelt: Best Access Points

Barton Creek Greenbelt

January may not be the ideal month for a visit to the great outdoors, but since this morning’s weather report is promising some unseasonably warm days ahead, and with spring not too far off, I thought I’d serve up one of Austin’s best outdoor destinations—the Barton Creek Greenbelt.

For those of you who love Lady Bird Lake’s Hike and Bike Trail, but are looking for a more rugged, less urban experience, the Greenbelt will be a welcome change of pace. Comprising an area of 809 acres and a total length of 7.9 miles, this amazing nature reserve, only minutes from Downtown Austin, lets you wander in the isolation of steep limestone cliffs, untamed vegetation, countless hiking and biking trails and dozens of natural swimming holes and waterfalls.

With spring on the way, the creek will soon be at it’s peak flow, though veteran hikers will tell you that the Greenbelt’s waterways can be a bit unpredictable—high-water years are remembered with a touching sentimentality. These, after all, are the same people who risked their lives to hang those rope swings from the branches of the trees along the creeks edge.

Though most people tend to enter the Greenbelt from an access point along the side of Loop 360, veteran visitors are quick to point out the value of knowing it’s lesser known entrances. Each part of the reserve has it’s own special characteristics.

Here’s a rundown of the Greenbelt’s access points:

Loop 360 (3755-B Capitol of Texal):
This is the main access point to the Greenbelt due to its location at the center of the trail. This entrance leads to some of the finest trails near the Seismic wall and will take you either west to Twin Falls or east to the Gus Fruh pool. Parking is available right alongside the highway.

Zilker Park:
Closest to Downtown Austin, the Zilker Park entrance leads to an easy trail ideal for mountain bikes and families who are bringing strollers.

Scottish Woods Trail (1710 Camp Craft Rd.):
This entrance lies on the opposite end of the Greenbelt and offers a more challenging experience. Less crowded, this access point begins with a downhill climb towards the creek. Numerous paths diverge from the main trail, offering a chance for more adventurous hikers to explore. Choose this entrance if you want to earn your visit to Sculpture Falls.

Twin Falls Access (3900 Frontage of Mopac):
On the other end of the spectrum, this entrance offers easy access to Twin Falls and is a short walk from Sculpture Falls. This is the best choice for someone looking to get to the Greenbelt’s best swimming spots. Unfortunately, during dry seasons these areas can only be explored on foot.

Gus Fruh (2642 Barton Hills Dr):
A direct access point to the Gus Fruh pool. This is an ideal place for dogs and kids to play. This is also one of the best areas for rock climbers. Climbing areas are located on the other side of the creek. “Guide Wall” is a good place to start.

Spyglass (1500 Spyglass Dr.):
This is also a good access point for climbers, and is the only way to reach Gus Fruh’s cliffs when the creek is too high. “The New Wall” is only fifteen minutes away.

If you decide to hit the trail, don’t forget to check out this handy map, complete with contours and top destinations, courtesy of the Austin Parks and Recreation Department. They also provide an incredible, exhaustive list of Austin trails.

Downtown Austin LEED Buildings

Established by the U.S. Green Building Council and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute, LEED is the nation’s preeminent program for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.  LEED is shorthand for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

Legacy On The Lake is a downtown Austin apartment building designed by EDI Architecture that has been awarded LEED® Certification.  They are the first residential multi-family building to do so.

How did they do it?  30% reduction of water use, 10% recycled material use, 43% of building materials sourced locally, 77% of construction waste recycled, use of low VOC interior finish materials, and 90% of interior spaces having access to daylight and views.

Several other items contributed to their LEED rating including:  electric vehicle charging stations, bicycle storage and changing rooms, and water efficient landscaping.  According to EDI, “Legacy on the Lake achieved LEED Certification despite having a tight construction budget.  Total upcharge to achieve certification was about 1 percent of the total construction hard costs.”

The LEED 2009 rating system is based on 100 possible base points plus an additional 6 points for Innovation in Design and 4 points for Regional Priority. There are four categories of rating:

* Certified – 40-49 points
* Silver – 50-59 points
* Gold – 60-79 points
* Platinum – 80 points and above

Other downtown buildings that have achieved a LEED rating:
1) Whole Foods (LEED Certified)
2) Austin City Hall (LEED Gold)

Of note, Gables Park Plaza is a candidate for LEED certification, the Austin W Hotel and Residences (aka. Block 21 Residences) is expected to be LEED Silver Austin’s first LEED Platinum building.  Also, the under-construction Federal Courthouse is being built to achieve a LEED Silver rating.

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Congrats To Emily – She Had A Boy!

Congrats To Emily – She Had A Boy!

Hooray for downtown Austin families! While walking on the trail yesterday, we discovered this banner hanging from the Legacy apartments We don’t know Emily, but we couldn’t resist helping her family with the announcement!

Plenty Of Parking In Downtown Austin

Plenty Of Parking In Downtown Austin

Thanks to Chris Schorre at the Downtown Commission for this.

“Generally, prices are around $5-7 M-W and around $8-10 Thursday, Friday and weekends. NOTE: Parking is free on downtown streets after 5:30PM daily and on weekends so you can ignore those Pay to Park signs during those times.”

SPECIAL OFFER FOR DAB READERS: THE Book About Urbanism In Austin

SPECIAL OFFER FOR DAB READERS: THE Book About Urbanism In Austin

The Congress for the New Urbanism, CNU, is on the front lines of saving the planet from suburban sprawl.  At the 2008 CNU annual conference, hosted in Austin, attending members received an amazing book titled Emergent Urbanism: Evolution in Urban Form, Texas.  Simply put, this is one of the best books about Austin, Texas.

The book is a publication of the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, Placemaking Studio, and Black + Vernooy.  Inside you will find 150 pages of incredible stories about, and history of, urbanism in Austin.  Contributors include Sinclair Black, former Austin Mayor Will Wynn, Katherine Gregor, Larry Warshaw, Cid Galindo, Senator Kirk Watson, amongst others.

One of my favorite articles is by Kent Butler and Frederick Steiner, The Green Heart of Texas.  They provide us with a history of the Edwards Plateau and geological uniqueness of Central Texas’s Balcones Fault Zone that separates the Hill Country from the Blackland Prairie.

This is a must have book for anyone that is interested in pedestrian friendly sustainable growth in Austin, Texas.  It would make a great gift for friend, family, or client.

The book can be purchased on Amazon for $30.00.  OR, drumroll … … … I’m excited to announce that Downtown Austin Blog has been given 15 30 50 100 books to disseminate to DAB readers for $9.99 + shipping!

Proceeds go directly to CNU Austin (Central Texas).  Use the button below to order yours now!