Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Part 1: A New Vision of Zilker Park


Part 1:
A New Vision of Zilker Park

DP’s (alternative) Zilker Park Vision Plan, A Return to the True Stakeholders

Goal #1: On an annual basis, to reduce both the number of cars parked and the number of cars that drive in-and-through Zilker Park.

Goal #2: To prioritize recreational uses — and users — of the park over economic users, while still preserving the potential for economic users to contribute to the cultural richness and thriving businesses in the area.

Intentional elements to accomplish this goal:

(1) A new Welcome Center under the MoPac Bridge

  • Ecological restoration and mitigation of storm water erosion under current MoPac Lot.

  • Last Mile Transit hub: bike racks, rental bikes, rental scooters; also a shuttle bus stop operating during the peak-use days of the year; the same bus stop will be useful for school buses dropping off children for field trips.

  • Pedestrian connectivity improved with new sidewalk and new footpath to the Gravel Lot; also a new crosswalk from the Gravel Lot to the Zilker Botanical Garden.

  • Aesthetic balance to the “welcome center” on the north side of this same pedestrian bridge; “first impressions” beautified for visitors who enter Zilker Park at this point.

  • An opportunity to take advantage of parking availability at Austin High School. Visitors can park on the north side and use last mile transit, or walk, to get deeper into Zilker Park.

  • Connects existing pedestrian traffic on the Hike and Bike Trail to Last Mile transit options.

  • An outdoor classroom, under the bridge and made of cut rocks, also helps mitigate storm water erosion. Provides an outdoor educational space where children can learn about Zilker Park; located where children are currently dropped off for school field trips to the Austin Nature Center.

    (2) Keep the Multi-purpose Gravel Lot

  • Keep it “as-is” because it is a multi-purpose size and key logistical

    element in the park.

  • Currently essential as the weekend peak-use overflow lot for the

    Zilker Botanical Garden.

  • A safe crosswalk is required from the Gravel Lot to the Botanical

    Garden. I suggest an electric crosswalk light and painted path be installed.

  • Big enough: It has sufficient capacity (approx. 700 spaces or more) to absorb current peak-use of the MoPac Lot (about 150 spaces). Peak- uses by various organizations, or recreational visitors to the park, generally do not occur at the same hours on the same day.

  • “Not too far.” Anecdotal evidence gathered by interview from parents confirms that the Gravel Lot “is not too far” to walk to the Nature Center if there is a safe sidewalk and crosswalk installed.

  • Staging: This lot solves the need for a “staging area” during extra- large festivals like The Trail of Lights and ACL. It is possible that ACL outgrows Zilker Park as its venue, but other large concert events will always be a possibility by keeping this staging area.

    (3) Volleyball Courts

  • Keep them as-is

  • Surface parking lot provides ADA handicap access for visitors who

    enjoy watching the games.

  • Flexible space: They sometime expand their nets from 4 to 8. To do

    this, they need the adjacent grassy area for 4 additional nets. This is an

    occasional use but a joyful one for the volleyball players.

  • Provides picnic tables, shade, drinking water and showers.

    (4) Family Picnic Zone

  • Surface parking lots accommodate easy and ADA handicap access to

    cement picnic grove area; allows visitors with their personal water- sport gear to unload and easily enter the creek; allows families with small children, supplies, and those with ADA handicap accessibility needs to easily enter the Playscape.

  • The Boat Rental concession is a historic element of the park and is located conveniently to other family-oriented activities (picnicking, playscape). It should be preserved. Historic elements of the park give people a sense of commitment: “our elders did this, we are here now enjoying it, we must help to preserve this beauty for future generations.” Historic elements, such as the Boat Rental, are educational: Historic elements help teach new generations about “how to care” about “others and their world.”

(5) Ecological Restoration of the Grass Polo Grounds

  • Clearly the most blighted area both due to its erosion, size, and central

    location in the park.

  • STOP parking cars on the Grass Lot (Polo Grounds). Parking logistics

    can be solved utilizing multi-modal access (bikes, scooters, and shuttle bus) to those scheduled special events that currently contribute to significant degradation by their offer of “free parking on the grass” at the expense of the beauty and health of Zilker Park.

  • Shuttle service (6a and 6b) could become a well-established COA service during recreational peak-use days in summer. It could be “activated” by those Economic Users or Special Event Users who currently push their parked-car-customers onto that sensitive area. The shuttle service is scalable: activation can be only 6a or 6b or both, at specific hours. This is an opportunity to engage the support of Zilker Lodge/Sunshine Camp and the Zilker Hillside Theater Non-profit because they will discover an urgent need to engage in a multi-modal solution during their economically advantageous events.

  • (Recommended) Keep the existing pathway with pervious cover that connects the Zilker Botanical Garden to Andrew Zilker Road. It could remain a lovely walkway through an ecologically restored area.

    (6a) East-side: Operating on Peak-Use Days, Reduce Cars Inside Zilker Park using a Robust Multi-Modal Mass Transit Solution

  • This “loop and figure-8 design” brings visitors in-and-through Zilker

    Park from one or more external parking garages.

  • The COA has now, and will have more in the future, large public

    parking garages on the east side of Barton Springs Road.

  • Visitors who plan a trip from a long distance to the park can feel

    certain that they will find a parking place in one of those COA garages. If this becomes “less true” due to peak-use occupancy, a “parking place reservation system” can be created in the parking garages. People who travel from outside the Zilker Park neighborhood need to feel confident that “there is a robust plan” to get them out of their cars and guide them into the park.

(Above) Limiting car entries on peak-use days: An electronic gate or manual (with staff) needed for each current car entrance into Zilker Park.

• Green Days in Zilker Park: The shuttle service will only be attractive to riders if the route has reduced traffic congestion both near the park and inside the park. However, a reduced number of cars would still be admitted to the park to accommodate: the Cap Metro public bus service, park staff, emergency vehicles, ADA handicap access parking, and a limited number of others as the COA determines by its design. The COA could design this program in various ways. One way would be to prioritize “special needs” (could be picnic supples, families with children, sport team directors carrying lots of sports gear). Or another way would be to limit access to a finite number of cars. Visitors who want to bring their car inside the park on a Green Day could possibly pre-register using a website or phone system; perhaps a limited number of tickets could be sold at a kiosk at the park gate. The COA

can decide if it’s free or costs money for each of three components: (1) the day-use parking permit, (2) the shuttle bus, (3) the parking garage. The “day parking permit holders” would park exclusively in the existing surface lots. There would be no parallel parking on Lou Neff Road, making it available for other recreational uses (skateboard, scooter, youth bicycling, etc.)

(6b) West-side: Operating on Peak-Use Days, Reduce Cars Inside Zilker Park using a Robust Multi-Modal Mass Transit Solution

  • Same as (6a) above, but welcomes visitors from south and southwest

    Austin to enter Zilker Park without driving their cars into the

    congested central/downtown area.

  • Parking garages in this area could be explored for partnerships with

    the COA.

  • The surface lots of Barton Creek Mall could possibly provide this

    parking access.

Part 1: A New Vision of Zilker Park

  Part 1: A New Vision of Zilker Park DP’s (alterna...