6 Sites Identified in Waller Creek Boathouse Relocation Efforts
AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department has identified six potential relocation sites under consideration for the Waller Creek Boathouse. The city-owned boathouse is set to move to a site yet to be determined as part of construction plans for the upcoming Project Connect transit overhaul.
Austin voters approved Project Connect in the November 2020 election, a $7.1 billion transportation overhaul to add light rail and expand the city’s current bus and rail services. As part of these preliminary designs, the Waller Creek Boathouse will be moved to make way for construction on the new Blue Line.
The Blue Line is a light rail service that will run from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to the North Lamar Transit Center, with its Rainey/MACC station planned to be built in the same area as the Waller Creek Boathouse .
At a community engagement forum Wednesday evening, PARD staff provided a public analysis of the six proposed locations. These preliminary locations were analyzed based on the ability of each to support an installation of at least 7,000 square feet; accommodate docks and boat traffic; access to the necessary electricity, water and wastewater resources; require minimal vegetation clearance or slope adjustments; and that do not conflict with active projects or vision plans being developed.
Liana Kallivoka, Deputy Director of PARD, broke down the following locations:
- Site 1: Located west of Zilker Park’s Rowing Dock concession and west of the MoPac Freeway bridge, a former landfill that would require remediation efforts if selected. Parking and docks can be arranged as needed; however, Kallivoka said the location could be affected by the future MoPac South project which is part of the Zilker Vision plan.
- Site 2: Located east of the MoPac Expressway bridge and across from the Texas Rowing Center, this site is also the location of a former landfill and should be remediated to accommodate a new facility. This area could also accommodate parking and docks if needed, but is also a site that could be impacted by the future MoPac South project integrated into the Zilker Vision plan.
- Site 3: The site serves as the PARD ball field currently used by Austin High School through an agreement with Austin ISD. If the boathouse is moved to this site, the PARD will need to identify an alternate location for the ball diamond. This location is next to the Texas Rowing Center and a public boat launch at a nearby weir site. Currently, parking availability is limited due to traffic at Austin High and Butler Trail.
- Site 4: This site is currently part of a permitting phase that the Trail Foundation is involved in, regarding park improvements that will provide child and family friendly amenities on Rainey Street and the Downtown Corridor. Traffic and elevation issues have been identified there, staff said.
- Site 5: Located near the old Holly Generating Station and within Holly Shores/Edward Rendor Sr. Park in Festival Beach, noted concerns include limited utilities near the waterfront. The park’s current vision plan no does not incorporate a boathouse, which could lead to delays in the implementation of the boathouse.
- Site 6: There is an existing building currently housed at this site, which is a former hostel that has since closed. Staff said the location could accommodate a large-scale installation and a canoe rental concession stand is already in place. There is a small parking lot and adjoining parking lot across the street, and staff said the location would provide more water-related recreational activities on the east side of I-35.
Of the six sites identified, PARD staff said the sixth option, where the gated hostel is currently located, is the most ideal for diversifying locations for recreational activities while minimizing the amount of environmental rehabilitation needed to accommodate a installation.
After Wednesday’s meeting, next steps include consolidating public comments from city and project staff as part of Project Connect’s draft environmental impact statement. This draft will be made available this summer for public review – a process that will include a public hearing.
Following approval by the Federal Transit Administration, initial design processes will begin once this new alternate site has been identified and approved.
The indefinite move of the boathouse has generated great interest from organizations currently using the facilities, including the Austin Rowing Club. In an interview with KXAN ahead of the community meeting, ARC Executive Director Kevin Reinis said it would take a collaborative effort to ensure the Austin institution continues operations along Lady Bird Lake.
“There should be a plan with the boathouse and its community services,” he said. “He shouldn’t just be wiped out, erased from the face of the earth.”
For Reinis, he said his hope for the future of ARC is to combine the vision of the two organizations. He praised Project Connect’s efforts to diversify transit offerings for residents and expand equity initiatives, and said he hopes those same sentiments and resources will co-exist with the future home of ARC.
“It would be wonderful if we could connect [ARC’s] services and amenities in the bridge, and leveraging the investment made in Project Connect for diversity, equity and inclusion,” he said. “My dream and vision is to take advantage of this disruptive opportunity and create a generational opportunity to impact people’s connectivity to water.”