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Section Of Shoal Creek Hike And Bike Trail Suffers Massive Storm Damage

Gabriel C. Pérez
A portion of the Shoal Creek Hike and Bike Trail near Pease Park is closed due to a "slope failure" after Friday's heavy rain.

Jessica Zarowitz was in for a surprise while walking her dog, Lady Bird, along the Shoal Creek Hike and Bike Trail on Monday: The trail that had been there for years suddenly wasn’t. Trees had fallen over it, and the pavement had buckled and slid into the creek in places.

“Maybe this is the universe telling us to explore the other part of the trail,” she chuckled.

Zarowitz is a licensed landscape architect with experience designing and building trails, so she couldn’t help but look at the damage with a professional eye.

Her verdict: “This is not a quick fix.”

Credit Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT
A paved section of the trail buckled and slid into the creek.

The city says the damage to the trail between 24th and 25th streets was caused when part of the hill the trail sits on experienced a “slope failure” and slid down during Friday's storm.

“We’re still not sure if [the land is] going to continue moving or not,” Clayton Ernst, a civil engineer with the Austin Watershed Protection Department, told KUT. “So we haven’t really gotten to the point of addressing solutions yet.”

A memo released by the department highlights damage to properties uphill from the creek and to a "boulder wall built to stabilized the channel bank."

"Of  immediate concern is the large quantity of soil, rock and debris in the creek (...) this could pose a problem with conveyance of flood flows within the creek," says the memo. 

Ernst says it's still unclear how the city might repair the trail. This is tricky parkland to work with because it's wedged between the creek and a hill with private property on it. 

The city is urging people to walk on the east side of Shoal Creek in the affected area until the trail is reopened. Ernst says it will take months –  maybe years ­– to fix, provided the city can find a safe way to do so.

Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.
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