Operation Reclaim Waller Creek

Photo of volunteers from December's Waller Creek clean up. Yours truly on the far left.

Just received this note from Carolyn Perez with the City of Austin, “In 2008 APD, together with the Watershed Protection and Parks Departments, launched an initiative to clean up the creek and enforce ordinances, including those related to vagrancy.”

Operation Reclaim Waller Creek helps clear urban waterway

The City of Austin will launch next week the next phase of Operation Reclaim Waller Creek, an initiative to improve the safety and environmental conditions along this urban waterway.

Austin Police officers, along with crews from Watershed Protection and Parks and Recreation will be focused on cleaning up the ¼-mile stretch of the creek from Cesar Chavez Street to Lady Bird Lake. Previous efforts have cleared areas upstream.

Work will include:

  • Cutting overgrowth in and along the creek.
  • Removing graffiti.
  • Picking up trash and debris.
  • Concentrated enforcement of City ordinances.

“This operation will help improve the quality of life for those who work, live and visit the downtown area,” said APD Officer Jason Huskins, Downtown Area District Representative.  “We have had issues with illicit activity along this portion of the creek.  This cleanup will allow us to have better access to the area and better means to protect our community and the environment.”

Downtown Austin Community Court will assign persons needing to fulfill community service requirements to help with the cleanup.

This month-long operation will help prepare for the Waller Creek Tunnel Project, which will alleviate flooding and reduce the amount of debris in the creek. Construction on the project is due to begin later this year in the area targeted by this phase of Operation Reclaim Waller Creek.

Waller Creek District Update

Waller Creek District Update

The entire Waller Creek District Master Plan can be downloaded here.

Waller Creek District Master Plan - Open Spaces

Waller Creek District Master Plan - Open Spaces

The vision for more and safe public spaces along Waller Creek, including park like connectivity from Waterloo Park to Lady Bird Lake, was a primary motivation for Amber and I to choose living at the Sabine.  When I tell people about Waller Creek, a common response is “Waller Creek… they’re still tryin’ to get that done, huh?”

The Waller Creek Tunnel Project and subsequent improvements to the district represent one of the most significant urban renewal project in Austin.  I was appointed to the Waller Creek Citizens Advisory Committee (WCCAC) last month.  Since then my understanding of what’s happening with Waller Creek has improved significantly – The Waller Creek Tunnel is on time and on budget and will break ground in late 2010 or early 2011.

Waller Creek District Master Plan - Land Use

Waller Creek District Master Plan - Land Use

At last night’s WCCAC meeting, ROMA delivered a highly compelling draft of a master plan for Waller Creek.  While we were only presented with a draft, ROMA’s Waller Creek districting plan creates a vast amount of public space and a Sabine Street promenade is one example of a progressive districting plan as a whole.  Sabine Street’s wide and underutilized right-of-ways could be converted into a more pedestrian and bicycle friendly promenade.  The promenade would most likely deliver large 30ft+ areas for al-fresco dining, bicycle lanes that connect back into the Waller Creek trail system, and enough room for limited automobile traffic to still get through.

On October 24th, ROMA will present the entire plan at a town hall meeting.

-Jude

Waller Creek Project Newsletter

Waller Creek Project Newsletter

Latest Waller Creek Newsletter Is Available

Latest Waller Creek Newsletter Is Available (click for pdf)

What A Ride On Waller Creek

With 50+ people in attendance, Saturday’s Waller Creek Bike Ride was successful at bringing people together to envision a future for Waller Creek.  We gathered at the Mexican American Cultural Center, which is just a few hundred feet from the southern outlet of Waller Creek.  From there we rode on along the hike and bike trail before entering what is properly known as the Waller Creek Greenbelt.

The Goose

The Goose

Click here to view the photostream from the tour

We stopped at several points along the way.  There is a large gap in the trail at Cesar Chavez where the flooding and runoff have destroyed the path.  As you ride back up behind Iron Works you can briefly reconnect by crossing Red River.  At 5th and Sabine we stopped and gathered to listen to a vision for creating a promenade – pedestrian and bicycle only – along the narrow and sparsely traveled Sabine Street between 4th and 7th Streets.  An interesting idea that can leverage the already wide sidewalks along Sabine Street.

Pushing on we were able to reconnect with the creek bank between 6th and 7th Streets, below Texas Picnic Company.  This is a notorious gateway for vagrancy and criminal activity, so it was no surprise that as our group pulled up we were greeted by five APD cars investigating something.  Down into the creek, we begin to see the wonderful limestone creek bed.  It’s beauty is ironically created from centuries of violent flooding.

As we rode past the Police Headquarters, gathered behind the Waller Creek Building, then continued to ride through Symphony Square and into Waterloo Park it became salient just how much property the city owns along Waller Creek.  Once we arrived at Waterloo Park we had a Q&A.  As it turns out there was someone from the State of Texas who joined the ride and commented that the State is very interested in working on solutions to improve Waterloo park by addressing the problems of unfriendly parking garages along San Jacinto.  Having only heard that there has been no outreach, to or from the State, I took this as a very positive declaration.

The Waller Creek Tunnel Project, simply the infrastructure that will enable and entitle district improvements, stops at Waterloo Park near 12th Street.  We continued to follow the path of the creek north bound past 15th Street and behind the UT Tennis courts.  We ultimately stopped at Crown & Anchor where everyone was able chat over beers and burgers.

This was a unique experience and an opportunity to hear the whispers, subtle conversation, and sharing of opinions on how to utilize Waller Creek once the tunnel is complete. Jeb Boyt, Shawn Shillington, Jana McCann, Rachel Proctor May, and Councilmember Chris Riley provided great information and a fun time.

-Jude

Waller Creek Bike Tour

Photo by downtown Austin resident, Ken Cobb

Photo by downtown Austin resident, Ken Cobb

Thanks to Dale Glover, Austin Parks Foundation board member and downtown Austin resident for sharing this…

Waller Creek Bike Tour
Saturday, August 1st @ 10:00 am
Starting at the Mexican American Cultural Center Plaza (600 River Street)

“The Waller Creek master planning process is well underway. This is an effort to redesign the currently underutilized downtown creek into a premier community space — a potential venue for strolling, jogging, biking, dining, shopping, music, break-dancing, balloon-animal-making, capoeira demonstrations, competitive toenail-painting, and a host of other activities. The master planning process will help us decide what kind of space we want and what kind of activities we want to promote to activate the space. However, a key issue shaping the decisions is the facts on the ground — the condition of the creek and the creekside amenities today. Hop on your bike and join us for a two-wheeled exploration of the opportunities and constraints for this future community hub. We’ll be joined by experts and participants in the Waller Creek master planning process, including:

• Council Member Chris Riley
• Jeb Boyt of the Waller Creek Citizen’s Advisory Committee and Austin Metro Trails & Greenways
• Jana McCann of ROMA Design Group
• James Moody of The Mohawk and the Austin Live Music Task Force
• Shawn Shillington, the Urban Development Editor for Austinist.com

And more! The tour will end at 11:45 with snacks and conversation at Crown and Anchor (29th and San Jacinto).”

-Jude