Construction starts on mile-long missing link in Violet Crown Trail
Construction starts Monday on the Sunset Valley portion of the Violet Crown Trail, a 30-mile path planned to run from Barton Springs Pool in Zilker Park through the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and eventually south into Hays County.
MAC, Inc. — a construction company hired by the City of Austin's Public Works Department — will carve the 1-mile stretch through a wooded area at the end of Home Depot Boulevard in Sunset Valley and underneath MoPac. It will then be connected with the sidewalk on the MoPac frontage road north of William Cannon Drive.
A separate section will continue on the east side of MoPac, south of Ben Garza Lane, and end at Sabio Drive.
"It will be nice just to have more trails," said Marina Gallos, a nearby resident whose dog was playing on a recent afternoon in a small grassy area at the end of Home Depot Boulevard. "That's kind of what Austin's known for, so I would be happy."
The 1-mile section of trail will cost $2.9 million to build. About 43% of that is coming from a federal grant distributed by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. The rest of the money is from voter-approved bonds passed in 2012 and 2016.
Development of the Violet Crown Trail is spearheaded by the Hill Country Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that's been working on the project since it was dreamed up in 1999.
The Hill Country Conservancy expects to break ground this year on a 1.7-mile stretch of trail from Slaughter Creek to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Once the two sections are done, a goal planned for early 2023, the Violet Crown Trail will be complete from Barton Springs Pool to the Wildflower Center.
But that's less than half of it.
Early discussions are underway to complete a final 17-mile section of the trail from the Wildflower Center to the Onion Creek Management Unit in Hays County. That section would be a narrow nature trail through land owned by Austin Water.
The Violet Crown Trail lacks the uniformity of standard urban trails in the city. Some sections are rocky, wild nature paths. Other areas, like the stretch being built in Sunset Valley, are 10-feet wide and made of crushed granite held together with a binder called Stalok.
In parts, the Violet Crown Trail relies on public sidewalks next to multiple lanes of traffic. The new mile-long section being constructed by the city connects to a sidewalk along the MoPac frontage road.
The mismatched sections underscore the challenge of orchestrating trail construction across varying terrains through multiple jurisdictions.
"The big expense in trail-building is dealing with utilities and road crossings. People don't tend to think about that," George Cofer, Hill Country Conservancy's founder and interim director, said. "We're going through an urban area, so there's a lot of things that have to be coordinated."
The cost of the 1-mile section of trail will be $2.9 million, not $2.8 million as initially reported by the city.