Austin Heritage Tree Foundation
Protecting trees

Shoal Creek Trail 5th St

Video showing all of the vegetation, from grass to trees, everything that would be removed when the entire west creek bank from 5th St. to West Avenue is removed to build a 15 ft. tall concrete wall and a 14 ft. wide concrete trail.  The trail will run at the bottom of the creek.  The outer edge of the trail will be where the outer edge of the west creek bank is currently (more or less), thus the need remove the entire west creek bank with all the vegetation.

Trees removed will be mitigated, but not on-site.  Trees can't be planted at street level, and trees can't be planted on the creek bank because of the vertical concrete wall.  Small native plans and grasses will be planted in a 30 inch wide planter running along the inner edge of the trail.    

We support the need to close this trail gap and complete connectivity for bikers safety.  Many of our members and friends are cyclists and we are concerned for their safety.  We also support that the trail be built in compliance with ADA regulations and beyond, to accommodate all types of disabilities and mobility impairments.  We even support that the trail be as wide as needed to accomodate the public.  However, we ask that the consultants and various city departments involved take into consideration wildlife and the health of the creek.  A tall concrete wall with a very wide concrete trail is a heat island at the bottom of the creek.  Trees need to be planted at street level, and if possible, at the bottom of the creek or along the creek bank face.  If there is not enough soil volume, then plant understories or trees with smaller roots, like crape myrtles, possum haw hollies, yaupon hollies, etc. 

The life cycle of a creek, the important food chain comes from the bugs, acorns, leaves, etc. that fall in the creek and feed aquatic life.  Trees shade the creek and cool the water, which along with increased aquatic life, improves water quality.  Smaller plants and grasses are also needed to feed butterflies and birds, that put droppings in the water, which feeds aquatic life.  Birds and butterflies migrate, contributing along their travels.  It's all a cycle, it's all connected.

We must understand that we are also all connected.  It's not about providing connectivity for cyclists (which is a very high priority), but it's about providing connectivity while considering wildlife and preserving  the creek, wildlife and vegetation.  There has to be a compromise, but the compromise should be a give and take from all parties, not that just from those who can't speak on their defense.  The truth is that those we ignore (wildlife, creek and trees) speak very loudly, with enormous resonance and impact on our lives, once they are gone, once we can't bring them back, once we have an ugly heat island where we used to have a little paradise in the middle of downtown. 

It's much easier to protect than to restore.  It may take longer to plan, cost a bit more, or lots more, but it's worth designing a plan that is good for the community and wildlife, that would make our community happy, and that will impress other cities.  So many people want Austin to be the example.  So then, consultants designing this trail, rise to the challenge and design a nicer trail that meets more of the community goals! 
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