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An ice storm hit the Austin area the week of Jan. 30. Hundreds of thousands of residents and businesses lost power as ice-covered trees toppled power lines across the city.

Some Austin trails blocked by debris might not be cleared for a while

A fallen tree blocks an unpaved portion of the Violet Crown Trail
Nathan Bernier
A fallen tree blocks an unpaved portion of the Violet Crown Trail along Brush Country Road. The Hill Country Conservancy is working to clear the Violet Crown Trail of debris.

Fallen branches and broken trees are blocking nature trails around Austin after last week’s winter storm. City workers are focusing on higher priorities, like moving debris from paved urban trails, sidewalks and roads.

Someone trying to walk down the Violet Crown Trail along Brush Country Road, for example, would encounter numerous busted trees blocking the path.

The Hill Country Conservancy helps maintain the Violet Crown Trail, but its crews are working on clearing the debris between the Dick Nichols Trailhead and Slaughter Creek.

At the Stephenson Nature Preserve off William Cannon Drive, a trail through the woods is blocked at several points by trees that had been bent over and split by ice.

An animated gif showing a broken tree blocking a nature trail in Stephenson Nature Preserve
Nathan Bernier
Trees blocked a wild nature trail at Stephenson Preserve off William Cannon Drive

All throughout the city, the rugged paths that let people escape into nature have been made even more wild by falling trees. And there's no estimate for when everything will get back to normal.

The city's Parks and Recreation Department — which oversees some 265 miles of trails — is still trying to tabulate the destruction.

"A complete assessment may take days or weeks, and repairs may take months depending upon the extent of the damage," Parks and Recreation Department spokesperson Kanya Lyons said of efforts to restore the city's parks to normal.

Lyons said some members of the Parks Department's eight-member forestry team had been reassigned to clear public roadways. The rest were out assessing parkland and trails.

The Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail had been completely cleared of debris, according to the Trail Conservancy, a nonprofit devoted to the maintenance and improvement of the popular trail around Lady Bird Lake.

"We have also cleared loose debris in the tree canopies covering the [Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail]," spokesperson Mandi Thomas said.

The cleared brush will be chipped and used around the trail as mulch to protect tree roots.

But much of the 300 acres surrounding the trail "did sustain substantial damage," Thomas said.

A complete assessment of the city's 60 miles of paved urban trails starts Tuesday. Public Works Department spokesperson Emily Smith said that could take "days or weeks" to complete.

Right now, she said, no urban trails are closed. Anyone who sees down trees or branches on trails is urged to report that to 311.

An aerial view of Dick Nichols Park. The playscape and tennis courts can be seen, along with part of a trail that winds through the woods.
Nathan Bernier
Much of the paved urban trail through Dick Nichols Park appears to have been cleared of debris.

KUT walked parts of urban trails along Shoal Creek and in Dick Nichols Park today. They appeared to have been mostly cleared.

"I think the trails are functioning better than the neighborhoods actually," said Julie Hardwick, who was walking the Shoal Creek Trail on Monday morning, "because we're still out of electricity."

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Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.
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