The wonderful world of the Waterloo Greenway
Austin’s newest park is full of history, shade and edible plants.
For the first time in a long time, I saw Austin in a totally new way this weekend.
Julian and I played tourists on Saturday afternoon and went to Waterloo Greenway, the new park, concert venue and public space that opened earlier this month between 15th and 12th streets, Trinity and I-35.
I’d never stood on a stage like that. I’d never seen the Capitol from that angle. Because I’d never been to the predecessor park, I’d never stepped on this stretch of Waller Creek, a flood-prone waterway along the eastern edge of downtown that is at the heart of this decades-long project.
Waterloo Park closed in 2011 for construction of what is now Waterloo Greenway. Back then, I was a mom with two little kids who hadn’t stepped foot in this little pocket of downtown.
What a treat to get to experience it for the first time with my ever-curious 14-year-old.
Thanks to the informative historical panels spread throughout the park, we were reminded that Waller Creek runs along the ever-changing Red River Street, a historically diverse cultural district that is now known for music. (Red River Throwback: Longtime readers will remember that the Red Eye Fly was where the hosts of “What Not to Wear” ambushed me in 2008 to go on the fashion makeover show.)
The whole park is built around the opening of the mile-long Waller Creek tunnel, a stunning feat of engineering that moves water underneath downtown, directly to Lady Bird Lake. (The output pond, next to the grassy area where Ai Wei Wei’s “Forever Bicycles” stood for two years, is another incredible sight.)
The tunnel will divert water, preventing floods like the one in 1915 that killed more than 50 people and destroyed many buildings along the creek.
But why just build a flood-prevention pond when you could build a meaningful, useful public space?
The folks behind this epic 35-acre project — formerly known as the Waller Creek Conservancy, now the Waterloo Greenway Conservancy — have made themselves known in Austin through an annual outdoor art show, called Creek Show, that has taken place along Waller Creek each fall since 2014.
(Creek Show is back this year! The show opens in November. The conservancy is also hosting Free Day of Yoga classes in September, and a 50-year celebration of Asleep at the Wheel in October.)
But this park is worth visiting even when there’s not something going on.
The skywalk is the only place where you can’t find much shade right now, but the skywalk itself creates these beautiful shaded areas on the lower level, where the landscapers took care to plant native plants, some of which are edible, like the Turk’s cap.
There’s also a food truck patio with two of the most stunning oak trees in the city.
Julian and I both were in awe.
“It feels like we’ve visiting a new city,” I told him.
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