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Opportunity

Where We All Meet

 
 

“The environment is where we all meet,” Lady Bird Johnson once said. Nowadays, she might say the Boardwalk on the Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail, encircling the lake now named in her honor, is where we all meet.

The Boardwalk, a public-private partnership that will serve generations of Austinites, bridged the 1.1-mile gap in the 10-mile Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail. Prior to the 2014 construction of the Boardwalk that served to complete the Trail, walkers had to cross 6 lanes of busy IH-35 access road traffic to cross from east to west Austin, or west to east. The promise of a boardwalk, necessary due to inaccessibility of land on which to continue the walking path, included access to free recreation and fitness infrastructure for underserved communities.

When The Trail Foundation , the nonprofit organization whose mission it is to protect and enhance the trail, pledged to raise $3 million for the project, they had never before tried to raise that much money. Stephen Saunders, then on the Foundation’s board, explains: “We knew we could raise that much money, we just weren’t entirely sure how we would do it.”

 

The Trail Foundation set up the Boardwalk Fund at Austin Community Foundation so funds raised would be in a secure place with a trusted local partner. The relationship lent credibility and encouraged major donors to give more readily. And City leaders liked that it was a segregated account whose funds were dedicated solely to the Boardwalk project.

With Austin Community Foundation as a partner, they didn’t raise just $3 million; they raised $5 million.

Since the Boardwalk’s completion in 2014, the remaining funds help seed new projects—including designs for the Heron Creek Restroom, Eastside Trail Bridge, and Auditorium Shores Trailhead. With designs in hand, The Trail Foundation can raise money to make those visions a reality—and it is committed to replacing spent funds in order to make future projects possible.

Located in the heart of our urban center, the Boardwalk allows people to easily connect to nature and meet one another—just as Lady Bird Johnson envisioned.

--Yaira Robinson