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Austin to increase patrols near Rainey Street trailhead after recent drownings

An orange sign on a fence cautions visitors about the lake in the background
Michael Minasi
Signs along the Rainey Street trailhead of the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail caution visitors about the lake.

Austin is stepping up safety measures near the Rainey Street trailhead after two recent drownings.

The city said Friday it is increasing police and park ranger patrols along the trail, which neighbors Lady Bird Lake and the popular nightlife hub on Rainey.

The Parks and Recreation Department has already installed a fence between the trail and the lake, as well as solar lighting in four locations on the trail. More permanent upgrades — which could include hard-wired lighting, cameras, fencing and improved signs — are expected to be installed later this year, according to a press release from the city.

The drownings this year remain under investigation, but the Austin Police Department has stated there is no indication of foul play. The city said three drownings near the trailhead between 2014 and 2018 were ruled accidental following investigations that included autopsies by the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office.

"We're going to exhaust everything that we can to make sure that people feel safe. Because they should feel safe."
City Council Member Zohaib “Zo” Qadri

The city pointed to a combination of alcohol, low nighttime visibility and access to Lady Bird Lake as possible factors in the drownings.

“As a city, we recognize we need to do more to keep people safe in this area,” interim City Manager Jesús Garza said in the press release. “We are moving quickly to do so and are reaching out to businesses on Rainey Street and other state agencies to partner with us in this crucially important effort. We ask visitors to Rainey Street to drink responsibly and stay safe by staying together.”

District 9 City Council Member Zohaib “Zo” Qadri said he intends to introduce a resolution directing the city manager to install an interim pedestrian safety plan and to provide a status report to the City Council by April 20.

"We're going to exhaust everything that we can to make sure that people feel safe," he told KUT. "Because they should feel safe."

Qadri is also pushing for coordination between the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission and bar owners to come up with strategies to prevent patrons from being overserved alcohol.

“I think it’s our responsibility as a city to respond with a sense of urgency," he said. "The job’s not done. One person dying is one person too many. We need to continue with a sense of urgency until this becomes a thing of the past.”

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