The long-discussed plan for the improvement of East Austin’s enormous tracts of parkland on the north shores of Lady Bird Lake near the former Holly Power Plant is finally taking its first small steps, nearly a decade after City Council approved the development of a vision for upgrading the area in 2009.
Generally referred to as Holly Shores but technically containing Edward Rendon Sr. Park at Festival Beach, Fiesta Gardens, the Manuel And Robert Donley Pocket Park, Metz Park, and a new park space planned for the 9-acre site of the former power plant, the Austin Parks and Recreation Department’s original master plan to connect and improve the entire chain of parkland has languished in obscurity for years.
The restoration of Chicano mural For La Raza, first painted in 1992 on part of a wall surrounding the now-decommissioned power plant and marking the original Tejano history of East Austin’s gentrified East Cesar Chavez and Holly neighborhoods, was commemorated last summer and represented the first notable movement on the implementation of the concept — but a year later, we’re seeing more motion.
Thanks to the Trail Foundation’s new Corgan Canopy Fund initiative, the nonprofit guardians of Austin’s Hike-and-Bike Trail appear to be taking at least a small portion of the reigns on bringing more elements of the master plan into the real world:
The Trail Foundation is preparing to implement various elements proposed in PARD’s Holly Shores/Edward Rendon Sr. Park Master Plan which designed a vision for revitalized open space that integrates redevelopment of the decommissioned Holly Street Power Plant site with existing open space. During the development of the Master Plan, consultants worked with the neighboring communities through a series of public meetings and outreach efforts to identify priorities from as wide a constituency as possible. The Trail Foundation desires to build on these successful engagement efforts to ensure the community continues its collaboration during the design of Holly Point, an inaugural Corgan Canopy Fund project announced in 2018 as one of the 15 projects for TTF’s 15th anniversary.
— The Trail Foundation, Holly Point Announcement
Holly Point refers to a small area of the parkland directly to the west of the decommissioned power plant and baseball fields, near the lagoon at Fiesta Gardens. The master plan for the whole region includes a realignment of the Hike-and-Bike Trail along the shoreline of the lake, rather than the inland path it currently travels, and this change in location is expected to enable better water access, provide an improved view, and free up additional park space the foundation says will be improved with decking under the heritage oaks in the area to create a “community gathering space.”
Riparian restoration of the shoreline’s wetland habitat is also discussed in the foundation’s preliminary presentations for the plan, though specific design features aren’t yet shown off at this stage. The focus on the trail’s realignment explains the foundation’s interest in this aspect of the master plan, and though it’s not quite as grand in scale as the expansive (and probably fairly expensive) vision for the entire area’s improvement, what’s nice about these specific Holly Point upgrades is that we might actually see them happen relatively soon — pragmatism is perhaps not what you generally expect from us, but we’ll take anything we can get to make this arguably neglected parkland a better place for people.
A view from the water on Lady Bird Lake, looking towards the Holly Point region.
The Trail Foundation is currently knee-deep in the community engagement and preliminary design process for the plan, but their present timeline states that construction could kick off as soon as the first half of 2020. An open house to present the recommended designs for the project is currently slated for later this year, sometime in October — we’ll be sure to attend!
Regarding the overall Holly Shores plan, it feels like we might get a little more traction on its implementation beyond just the Holly Point stuff in the near future. The redevelopment of the adjacent RBJ Center site is already underway, and the increased attention on the potential of this area might light a little fire under the city’s piggy bank — pedestrian bridge action at the nearby Longhorn Dam won’t hurt either.
So, as these articles tend to go, it’s time for us to drop the ask. We sadly missed last month’s public meeting soliciting feedback for the project from residents, but the online survey is open and needs your attention before it closes at 11:59 p.m. on July 5. Your Fourth of July plans may not include filling out community engagement surveys — but then again, in our experience TOWERS fans are a particularly plugged-in bunch, so maybe you could carve out some time in between pouring vodka into watermelons and setting off illegal fireworks.
It won’t take long, and even if it sounds corny, our readers have actually demonstrated a significant influence on these surveys in the past. The power to make Austin a better place for everyone is in your hands, so go knock it out while you still can.