We asked our readers earlier this year to provide their feedback on the first community survey soliciting input for the Zilker Park Vision Plan, a comprehensive planning initiative by the city that will work until next year to pull together every thread of a detailed roadmap for the 350-acre park’s future — mobility improvements, facilities upgrades, conservation efforts, historic preservation, and so on.
It’s a massive effort on the part of the Parks and Recreation Department and their local consultants at Design Workshop, with the early draft report on the plan already reaching 96 deeply informative pages and the first community meeting taking place last week, but we confess that in these early stages we’re mostly interested in how the first survey from earlier this year came out — what do Austinites think Zilker Park needs to accommodate an ever-expanding city? Well, judging by the hundreds of comments suggesting it, we need to move the Austin City Limits Music Festival out of the park and possibly schlep its stages all the way out to Circuit of the Americas:
“ACL has become non-local, too corporate and crowded. Why not move it to the race track. Use buses to transport guest to and from the track.”
“I wish ACL would be relocated. It cuts off access to the park for the local community during a beautiful season to be there and is a burden on the neighbors. I’d like to see the city prioritize its citizens/park-goers over a corporate events.”
“Catering to commercial events such as ACL benefits a few, such as C3 Presents and non-residents, but closes the park to residents whos taxes pay for parkland. Move Trail of Lights to a larger venue, such as the race track or new soccer stadium!”
“I think ACL should move to another location. It’s 2 setup, 2 weekends, and break down takes the park away from the city residents during the best months of the year. It causes overflow parking in my neighborhood of Zilker, not to mention excessive noise for those who do not work regular hours. It’s a private event that most Austin residents can’t afford to enjoy.”
“ACL has become too large to house it at Zilker & it ruins the lawn for months! Too crowded for the area for ACL! It draws too many people now & traffic & problems occur!”
“Hate the Christmas lights drive through car extravaganza, what a nightmare. Same for Austin City Limits and the crowds, fences, how it trashes out the park and makes it into downtown New York City for the entire period. NOT AUSTIN. And I’ve been here since 1956.”
“When ACL isn’t ruining it for city residents, it’s a wonderful place to put a kayak in to the creek or lake, and Barton Springs is a wonderful place. Just get ACL out.”
“I grew up in South Austin. Zilker is an important part of our city culture. I don’t like ACL there or even the Trail of Lights. A select few get to enjoy that and make money off our park. Do we really see any benefits from that?”
“Unfortunately free daily/hourly access may have to be changed to limited numbers of visitors due to the growth of our population. Keep it free access but limited at times so everyone can enjoy! Remove ACL, soccer games etc. as they’ve outgrown the location size. Make it a peaceful relaxing park as it was 40 years ago!”
“ACL and the Trail of Lights should be moved to the east side of town. The parkland should be preserved for citizens’ enjoyment.”
See for yourself! The number of people expressing the belief that ACL’s two-week occupation of Zilker is no longer tenable for its original space and needs a new location had us a little surprised, though as you can see above not all their reasons were precisely the same — some don’t like that festivals and other events make the park inaccessible for long periods, others think it’s bad for the park’s ecology to have all those folks stomping around on the field, and a few just live nearby and don’t like the traffic or noise. (We’re not even going to address the fact that some of these same people also recommended moving the Trail of Lights out to the racetrack. C’mon.)
But do they have a point? ACL’s rapid expansion from its inaugural bash in 2002 to its present-day status as one of the top music festivals in the country has already necessitated some changes, namely the decision to start running the event twice on consecutive weekends just to keep the crowds huge instead of dangerous. To us, the unique environment of Zilker’s lawn is what really defines the event — without the surrounding trees, “rock island” as a natural gathering point, or the skyline views from across the lake, it’s just some other festival. Circuit of the Americas, which as we mentioned was the most common suggestion from survey respondents for a new location, is a nice facility and all, but do you really think it comes close?
We’re not quite sure how to feel about this one, and we’re even less sure the city would ever try to mess with such a popular, economically significant festival regardless of what people said on this survey, but we know one thing — our readers might have different perspectives than the neighborhood associations and groups like Save Our Springs that almost certainly solicited ample feedback on the survey from their members. To test that theory, we’ve prepared a little unscientific two-question survey of our own. Fill it out for us and we’ll be sure to let you know the next time the city needs your input on this thing, possibly even later this summer. Get to it: