Friday, April 30, 2010

City Plans Major Project for Neighborhood Greenbelt

The city's Watershed Protection department has proposed a major project that will alter the environment on the Willowbrook Reach, our large neighborhood greenbelt that snakes along the Upper Boggy Creek from Cherrywood Rd. to 38 1/2 Street.

The Reach is beloved by neighbors, herons, turtles, frogs, butterflies and many more. The property is home to over 100 trees, wildflowers (many blooming now), fossils, yellow-crowned night herons, Coopers hawks, and myriad other birds, insects, fish and amphibians. It's also where we neighbors go to walk our dogs, run for exercise, and generally find relief from our urban environment. It's an oasis, and if you haven't discovered it yet, I highly recommend walking down and checking it out.

Mike Kelly, project leader with the Watershed department, says that his department assessed conditions at the Reach 8 or 9 years ago. At the time, they found our greenbelt with steeply eroding banks, exposed water and wastewater lines, and potential flooding dangers, among other issues. That assessment formed the basis for funding that was approved by City of Austin voters in the 2006 Bond Election for projects on the Upper Boggy Creek, including the Willowbrook Reach.

The City has now been working on the project for 3 years with contracted engineers and landscape architects. The Friends and Lovers of Willowbrook Reach (FLWR) recently learned that the design phase of the Watershed project is now 90% complete.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fenced In

As the Austin Water Utility begins its job replacing water lines on Sycamore and Cherrywood this week, they were kind enough to fence off the butterfly garden. Hopefully that will protect it from any roving trucks and workers.

The butterflies won't mind at all - you can't fence them in! Unfortunately, it will make viewing and watering plants challenging. Too bad, because this Spring the butterfly garden is finally blooming away!

More details on the AWU project:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Historic photos: The Reach after a Water Main Break

Water flowing along Huisache Bend in June 2003. Taken by neighbor Dianne Sullivan.

The photo above was taken on the south side just east of Half Penny on Sycamore. Looking northwest. Note how different the banks look without vegetation. I'm told that this was not caused by rain, but a water main break.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Window into the Past: Geology & Paleontology of Willowbrook Reach

By Erich Rose 

Austin, and the entire Central Texas region are well known for its readily accessible geology.  From the time of the earliest European settlers people have been collecting and commenting on the abundance of fossils and other evidence of ancient life to be found in our streams, road cuts and wherever the bedrock becomes exposed. 

We all know Austin is divided into basically two halves.  The uplifted, western "Hill Country" side and the low-lying relatively flat eastern half.  The rocks and fossils are easily found to the west in the big road cuts and quarries.  But to the east where the rocks are both less disturbed and often softer, we need to look in streams and the occasional construction site.  Willowbrook Reach is one of those spots.

I first visited the stream in the mid 90's.  My in-laws live in the neighborhood and, knowing my interest, it was suggested that I check out the creek bed.  Well to my pleasant surprise fossils were present, and in certain spots, abundant.  Now there are fossil collectors who bring picks and shovels and feel certain the best stuff must be below the surface.  

That's not my style.