🚶Are they really talking about paving the Town Lake trail?
Brandon Bell/Getty Images
- 6 min read

🚶Are they really talking about paving the Town Lake trail?

Plus, 3 things the New York Times got right about Austin.


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☀️ G'morning, Austin.

Early primary election results are in!

Have you heard people angrily discussing the possibility of the Town Lake trail being paved? We break down the proposed city code amendment that started some of those conversations.

We've also got an explainer of Austin's flash flood alley status and our take on the New York Times' recent Austin visit.

Happy reading!

City Hall's trail debate, explained

If you’re like any other normal Austinite, you probably love the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail. Also known as the trail around Town Lake. Also known as Lady Bird Lake. Also known as the Colorado River.

Names can be hard in this town. 

If you love spending your weekends or mornings strolling around the water (we can all agree on calling it a "body of water," right?), then you'll want to know about a particular City Hall debate happening this week. Let's dive in.

An aerial view of downtown Austin and Lady Bird Lake from above the I-35 bridge.
Brandon Bell / Getty Images 

What's going down at City Hall this week? 

At the risk of stating the obvious, a LOT has changed since construction of the trail began in the early '70s, including several Land Development Code changes.

In 2017, the code was amended to restrict development within 50 feet of Lady Bird Lake. This meant the Butler Trail, which is often within 50 feet of the lake, was no longer in compliance. Making it more difficult to update and improve the trail.

Then in 2023, City Council asked staff to create another slate of amendments that would make the Butler Trail and future trail improvements officially "in compliance."

Those amendments are what the Council will consider Thursday.

"We want to be consistent in how we expect future developments to occur and we want to be clear about the kind of restoration that we would expect in exchange for approving of those developments," city environmental officer Katie Coyne said in response to questions about why the code amendment was necessary at a recent Parks and Recreation meeting.

Right now, City Council can approve individual exceptions for each trail project, but Coyne says there's no guarantee what type of environmental mitigation or restoration would be required for those.

So what kind of improvements could be done? 

In conversations about the proposed amendments, the city has referenced recommendations listed in three documents: the 2015 Butler Trail Urban Forestry and Natural Area Management Guides, the Butler Trail Park Operations and Maintenance Agreement and the Butler Trail Safety and Mobility Study.

Some of the recommendations in those documents include: 

  • Keeping the trail at least 14 feet wide, with 2-foot shoulders on either side. In areas where widening is not possible, the recommendation is to create double trails, alternative routes or a boardwalk. 
  • The use of asphalt, concrete, porous pavement and other materials to help combat erosion and washouts that occur during heavy rains — noting that washouts often result in the trail’s current crushed granite running off into the surrounding landscape, which “impacts both aquatic and terrestrial habitat.” 

Staff have also noted that the amendment will help streamline other improvements such as stormwater upgrades, path stabilizations, trailhead improvements and safety lighting.

Why are some upset about the possible code change? 

Save Our Springs Alliance has been an outspoken critic of the proposed changes, citing concerns over the elimination of water quality protections and City Council oversight of the trail development, plus the potential for more of the trail to be paved over.

“I think overwhelmingly people favor that the trail is a nature trail along the park … 50 years of conservation effort viewed this as a recreational nature trail, not a paved trail, around the lake in the heart of our city,” said Save Our Springs Alliance director Bill Bunch at a recent Parks and Recreation Board meeting.

He and others also noted that under the current code, the trail can be expanded beyond the 12-foot width restriction with City Council approval, arguing that there is no need to remove that oversight. 

Other speakers called for additional limits to concrete and asphalt use, and width restrictions of 20 feet (although portions of the trail are already wider than that). Others want to prioritize maintaining the natural environment of the trail.

Have thoughts on the issue? You can always sign up to share them at the City Council meeting Thursday.

— Cat DeLaura, Reporter

Temperature: 84 degrees | Sun: Slowly hiding | What to Expect: A sweaty workout

Another warm day is expected across Austin, but the difference is the sticky factor, AKA humidity. The morning will begin with a few clouds, but then in will come a southeast wind from the Gulf of Mexico.

Mary’s Tip: Get your workout in earlier in the morning before the sweat factor gets turned up!

What does "flash flood alley" mean, anyway?

Central Texas is known for its rich history, culture and diverse music scene – not to mention the most beautiful bluebonnets. However, the weather in Central Texas can become extreme and lead to dangerous flooding.

Austin sits right in the middle of what is known as “flash flood alley,” which stretches from Dallas to San Antonio, along the Balcones Escarpment.

Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images

Why does this area have a higher potential for flooding than anywhere else in the United States?

  1. Abundant atmospheric moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean can be converted into heavy rainfall when storms develop.
  2. The higher elevation of the Hill Country gives unstable air extra lift to help with storm development and intensity.
  3. This region has rocky, clay-rich, and shallow soil, which limits the amount of rainfall the ground can absorb before it creates runoff to streams and rivers.
  4. The expansion of urban growth along the Interstate 35 corridor, and the replacement of green spaces with pavement, has recently contributed to major flash floods in this region.

To prepare for severe weather season, it's crucial to familiarize yourself with atxfloods.com, which monitors more than 2,000 low water crossings in Austin and its surrounding counties.

They don't say "turn around, don't drown" over and over again for nothin'.

— Mary Wasson, Meteorologist

3 things the NYT got right about Austin

🚨Legacy-media-article-about-Austin alert!🚨

This time, it’s the New York Times, which ran a suggested itinerary for how to spend 36 hours in Austin last week.

A “Keep Austin Weird” reference? Check.

A SoCo mention? Check.

A Dirty Sixth recommendation? You know it.

Yes, the entire list is generic af. But for someone coming to Austin for the first time, with only a weekend to spare, this is probably a good place to start (and at least The Times didn’t disclose the super hidden gems to the public.)

Here are 3 things the piece got right:

  1. It’s easiest to get around Austin by car/Uber. You can rent bikes as well, but ride-hailing will likely be the simplest option for visitors.
  2. Veracruz is where to get breakfast tacos. There’s a reason this is the local joint that’s always name-dropped in national pubs. It’s not just good marketing — they back up the hype with some damn good tacos.
  3. Look, we don't want to wade into the Allen’s Boots vs. Tecovas discourse. But OG Austinites will appreciate The Times mentioning the former and not the latter. Nothing like lumping an Old Austin family-owned staple in with New Austin’s VC-funded hipster cowboy destination to get their blood boiling.

Were so glad you found us. Find our bios and contact info here, or reach out at hello@austindaily.com. Behind todays send: Katie Canales, Cat DeLaura and Mary Wasson.