Is Zilker Park the new Greenbelt–or is Austin just growing up?

To celebrate the arrival of spring, my friends and I hit Zilker Park last Saturday to soak up the sun, have a picnic, and drink a little something something. To our surprise, it was packed.

Basking bodies strewn across the meadow in Kite Festival-like proportions. From the soccer fields to Rock Island to the volleyball courts all the way clear to MOPAC, nothing but skin and picnic blankets. Dogs darted through the crowds. And not surprisingly, music from all ends of the spectrum danced across the meadow like an iPod version of ACL.

Zilker Park goer takes in the sun on Groundhog's Day.

Folks decided to sunbathe in Zilker Park on Groundhog’s Day.

It was the type of scene that used to play out at Campbell’s Hole on the Greenbelt–except this scene had a grownup vibe. Instead of teens drumming in bacchanalian fits, there were hipsters calmly playing cards against humanity. And instead of a dense cloud of weed smoke, young families sipped bubbles and beers while their children tumbled around in the grass.

Crayons, markers, blankets and sun.

Crayons, markers, blankets and sun.

And the grown up feel wasn’t just about the people there. It’s like Austin is growing up. Not surprising: As a city’s population increases, its public spaces transform into shared spaces that build a sense of community and become the fabric of city social life. It happens on the weekends in Berlin’s MauerPark (killer Karaoke), New York’s Sheep’s Meadow, and San Francisco’s Dolores Park (hipsters in slow motion video). And my gut tells me it’s going to get more and more crowded as the season progresses because it’s more accessible than the Greenbelt, the grass is always lush and green, drinking is questionably allowed allowed, and MAN that view is amazing.

Groundhog's day felt like the first day of spring at Zilker Park

Groundhog’s day felt like the first day of spring at Zilker Park

But folks, listen: There are an ish ton of us trying to do the same thing at the same time. We gotta think about the impact that has on the other inhabitants of the city. It’s causing an increase in trash, an increase in Police resources, and an effing mess of traffic. Seriously, the entire time we were there, there was a non-stop river of idle cars waiting to leave and waiting to park.

The line in and out of Zilker Park continued into the evening.

The line in and out of Zilker Park continued into the evening.

So I want to challenge us to think about how we want to use this shared space. What do we want to transform it into? And how do we decrease the impact of our use?

I’ll start it off: Ride a bike! Better yet, form a bike gang and all hit the park together! Seriously, if you’re in a herd, it’s not so bad.

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About Chris Apollo Lynn

78704er, cyclist, part-time DJ, new media mad scientist, urban farmer, not a robot, ready for End of Days.

18 thoughts on “Is Zilker Park the new Greenbelt–or is Austin just growing up?

    • Austin Dennis

      Driving and parking isn’t a small town mentality. In small towns you can ride bikes because they’re small. :-p Driving and parking is a “city without good public transit”mentality. I’d gladly take a bus to Zilker but it’d take me close to 2 hours because of the shitty routes. Riding a bike isn’t realistic either. I am going to start riding my bike to work though. I can just hardly wait for our city to improve public transit. I’d take a bus or train (and then possibly my bike) over my car ANY day.

      Reply
  1. alsofine

    dedicated Bathroom facilities would be amazing all around the trail and at Zilker. Even port-o-lets if we can’t get plumbing, there is literally no where to go over there :) I would love to see open air cable car styled busses that run the downtown loop, dog friendly, hop on and off kind of thing for our fair town. parking garages in the corners of the loops and then jump on and off with your crew all day long. :)

    Reply
  2. gloria ann

    I don’t think Austin is “growing up” I believe people are becoming lazy. Though Zilker is pretty it doesn’t beat the hiking plus swimming holes that Greenbelt offer.

    If people want less traffic, Austin needs to put more bike lanes in place. Austin has some of the worst drivers, being an avid cyclist I personally know how it feels to be around motorist who dont give a damn about cyclist.

    Reply
    • Chris Apollo Lynn

      Tell me about it. I’ve gotten a few nicks from drivers in SUVs who just kind of drift into the bike lane while they are talking on their cell phone. The city is considering putting something up that separates the bike lanes. Let’s see if it actually happens.

      Reply
  3. DookerJohnston

    Austin isn’t growing up; it’s growing stupider. Every article about it is about how it’s the new this-and-that, while if it were really so great, people would just be enjoying it, rather than having a chip on their shoulder and having to yell at the whole world about it. Austin has turned into a bunch of pretentious hipsters parading around, actually believing the crap they are smelling is flowers. You all look silly, and real cities are laughing at you.

    Remember, you’ll always just be a small city in Texas.

    Reply
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