Photo courtesy of Zug55
Although Austin may be a growing metropolitan city, beautiful green spaces like the Barton Creek Greenbelt remain well-traveled and much-loved by locals trying to get in touch with nature. The Hill Country Conservancy has developed an extensive trail system to connect Austin area trails and parks so Austinites can walk, run, jog, hike or bike all across the city without having to drive. The trail was previously known as “Walk for a Day”, but area voters recently elected to change the name to the Violet Crown Trail. When completed, the Violet Crown Trail will be the longest regional trail in Central Texas with a length of at least 30 miles. The Violet Crown Trail will begin in Zilker Park and continue all the way to FM 967 in Hays County. The Hill Country Conservancy believes this project will answer the needs of Austinites looking to explore the nature of South and Southwest Austin without interruption.
Development of the trail has been divided into three phases. Phase One connects existing trails in Zilker Park and the Barton Creek Greenbelt to those in Sunset Valley. Five miles of this section is currently open to the public, with entrances at Capital of Texas Highway (Loop 360) and Zilker Park. Phase Two is currently under construction, and involves connecting Phase One through Dick Nichols Park to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The Austin Veloway will also be connected to the Violet Crown Trail in this phase. The final section, Phase Three, is still in the planning stages and will extend from Phase Two deep into Hays County all the way to FM 967. This section will be open to horses. The trail passes through both rural and urban areas, but as well-worn paths wind through dense thickets of greenbelt, it will be difficult to distinguish the city from the country.
The Violet Crown Trail was designed by master trail planners at Greenways Inc. and has been funded through private donations, sponsorships and government bonds and grants. The project has also utilized the skills of youth workers participating in American YouthWorks, which enrolls at-risk youth in educational programs, green jobs and other trades. Since the Violet Crown Trail passes near several suburban neighborhoods in Southwest Austin, the Hill Country Conservancy expects that local residents will get the most use out of the trail at first, followed by recreational visitors. Because of the trail’s proximity to retail centers like the Sunset Valley Village and Arbor Trails, it's possible for trail users to walk or bike to these areas from their home without using their cars. In a city with increased traffic concerns, any opportunity to travel without a vehicle is a welcome one. Austinites can expect the newest section of the Violet Crown Trail to open in 2014.