Featured Photo: A view of Barton Springs in Austin that would serve as one of the four spring destinations in the Great Springs Project. Image: Google Streets.
by Art Benavidez
Austin (Travis County) — An ambitious project that would bring a 100-mile hiking trail from Austin to San Antonio has gained more traction as the National Park Service (NPS) Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program recently announced the selection of the development to receive community planning and technical assistance.
The name of the project is the Great Springs Project and it would connect Barton Springs, San Marcos Springs, Comal Springs and San Antonio Springs.
The objective of the development is to add an additional 50,000 acres of national park-scale corridor protected lands over the Edwards Aquifer recharge and contributing zones between the dense urban areas of Austin and San Antonio, while linking this green corridor via a network of multi-use trails connecting the four springs.
The project envisions unifying existing local efforts to address the most critical water, land, wildlife and public health challenges facing the Central Texas region.
The project was selected through a competitive process and will receive support to help make outdoor recreation and conservation spaces vital, life-enhancing parts of their communities, NPS said in a press release.
The NPS will assist these efforts by pairing their network of professional landscape architects and community planners with communities to achieve on-the-ground successes.
When completed, the project will result in the protection of natural resources for both aquatic and non-aquatic endangered species, water quality protection for the over two million people in the corridor who rely on the Edwards Aquifer for their drinking water, an economic development catalyst for the cities and counties along the proposed trail routes, and access to nature and health benefits for the projected population of nine million people living in and between Austin and San Antonio.
Emma Lindrose-Siegel, chief development officer for Hill Country Foundation who co-founded the project, told the Austin Chronicle that the project is still in its design stages but there exists the potential to connect the project to existing trails that would make a biking route from Austin to San Antonio possible, however there is no definitive plan.
“For that reason, Great Springs Project works with developers and city and county planners to ensure that the things we love most about living here will be protected and continue to be a resource for future generations,” she said.
The project has hired Portland, Oregon based Alta Planning + Design, who specialize in trail designs, to create a trail master plan, scheduled to be completed in summer or early fall 2021, according to CultureMap Austin.