Austin suburbs investing in parks, trail systems to maximize quality of life

Austin’s rapidly expanding suburbs are responding to the needs of their residents by enhancing their parks and trail systems. Recognizing the multifaceted advantages of parks – economic, health, and emotional – many of these suburbs have either secured funding or are seeking approval through voter-backed bonds to revamp their parks and trails. Feedback from residents consistently underscores the importance of park enhancements, as they provide opportunities for outdoor activities, connection with nature, and increased social interaction. Moreover, these improvements can significantly boost property values, with estimates ranging from 11% to 16%.

Here’s what we’ve uncovered about suburban areas committed to upgrading their park infrastructure:

Round Rock’s Ambitious Five-Year Bond Plan: Having secured a $230 million bond proposition for parks and recreation, Round Rock is poised to complete 11 projects within the next half-decade. This includes substantial upgrades to their largest park, Old Settlers Park. Construction at Old Settlers Park is scheduled to commence in August 2024, with systemwide enhancements starting in the next four to five months. The bond allocates funds for various amenities within the park, such as a new recreation center, expansion of the Multipurpose Complex, replacement of tennis courts, and broader infrastructure improvements. These upgrades also involve constructing a larger permanent stage for special events, a new restroom facility, an improved playground, and extensive road and bridge enhancements. All these changes reflect the city’s commitment to keeping pace with its remarkable population growth, which has surged from 12,740 to 126,697 since the park’s initial construction. The city also recognizes the need to replace the playground due to wear and tear from constant use.

Other improvements in the bond plaan include:

  • A new recreation center to house Parks and Recreation administration offices at Old Settlers Park.
  • An expansion of the Rock’N River Water Park.
  • Citywide trail expansion to include the completion of Heritage Trail.
  • Improvements at Play for All Park to replace playground equipment.
  • Development of the Lawn at Brushy Creek.
  • Systemwide park improvements such as playgrounds, courts, LED light conversions and irrigation improvements through city parks.
  • A remodeling of the Clay Madsen Recreation Center to include a locker room redo and expansions of the weight room, multipurpose rooms and gymnasium.
  • An expansion of the Round Rock Sports Center.
  • An outdoor track in Old Settlers Park.
  • Multipurpose athletic fields.
  • Land acquisition, design, equipment, drainage and other related costs for the projects.

Pflugerville’s Post-Bond Progress: Following a voter-approved bond referendum in 2020, which allocated $43.3 million for parks and recreation projects, Pflugerville has embarked on several initiatives. These include Phase 2 developments at 1849 Park and Lake Pflugerville, investment in neighborhood parks, land acquisition, trail improvements, and the creation of a destination playground. Notably, all trail projects have been completed, effectively closing gaps in the city’s extensive trail network. Furthermore, expansion projects for baseball and softball fields at 1849 Park are set for completion by year-end. Additional enhancements are in the works for various neighborhood parks, including the possibility of a dog park and further developments at Kelly Lane Park. The commitment to investing in parks is driven by their immeasurable contribution to residents’ quality of life and the city’s recognition of their role in creating a vibrant community.

San Marcos’ Pathway for Connectivity: In San Marcos, plans are underway to link the east and west sides of the city with a 1.7-mile extension known as the San Marcos River Shared Use Pathway. This trail will provide crucial connectivity for the city’s Visitor Center, 12 parks, downtown area, and Texas State University. The extension, slated to pass under Interstate 35 and its access roads, promises safer pedestrian and cyclist access for residents, addressing a long-standing community need. A request for community funding of $986,346 has been submitted to U.S. Rep. Greg Casar, D-Austin, with congressional consideration expected by year-end. Additionally, the city will replace its oldest playground, damaged by a drunken driver, with a new one in City Park, featuring outdoor fitness equipment, a ninja course, and accessibility for individuals with disabilities. The city maintains a commitment to updating playgrounds every five to ten years to ensure quality recreation options for its residents.

Williamson County’s Ambitious Bond Proposal: On November 7th, Williamson County voters will decide on a $59 million bond proposal aimed at park improvements and acquisitions in this rapidly growing region. Among the prominent projects are future parkland development, expansion of the Expo Center in Taylor, construction of an adventure course at Twin Lakes Park, trail connectivity improvements, and trail construction along Berry Creek. These initiatives reflect Williamson County’s commitment to enhancing its park infrastructure to meet the needs of its residents and the demands of a growing community.

In conclusion, the suburbs surrounding Austin are making significant investments in their parks and recreational facilities, recognizing the vital role these spaces play in enhancing the lives of residents and boosting property values. These projects represent a commitment to quality of life, community well-being, and creating vibrant, sustainable neighborhoods for current and future generations.

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