August 14, 2015 by Kelli Weldon
The first six miles of the Violet Crown Trail opened to the public Aug. 14 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring Austin City Council Member Ellen Troxclair, Sunset Valley Mayor Rose Cardona and George Cofer, executive director of local nonprofit Hill Country Conservancy.
Standing at the threshold for the trail, which will someday stretch 30 miles from Zilker Park near downtown Austin, through Sunset Valley and Southwest Austin, and into Hays County, Cofer told community members and supporters the road traveled to arrive at the milestone has been a long one—sometimes challenging, sometimes fun but above all, worthwhile.
“I think we will look back, 10, 20 years from now, when we are all bicycling and walking down into Hays County, and say, ‘Wow. Remember that morning?’” he said.
The Violet Crown Trail began as a vision in the late ’90s to create the first regional trail system in Central Texas, Cofer said.
The entrance to the first segment of the trail is located near the intersection of Brodie Lane and Hwy. 290. The trail, which will run through the heart of Austin City Council District 8, is an example of what can be accomplished through partnerships and multiple municipalities working together to turn a vision into a reality, Troxclair said.
“Projects like this, where we are preserving something for the community for future generations and making something available to every member of Austin or Sunset Valley or all of the visitors that come here to enjoy it, I think that’s something very special and something to be very proud of,” she said.
Cardona, who attended the ceremony with her one-month-old baby Lily, thanked community members as well as Sunset Valley City Council member Forrest Arnold for their help in developing the trail.
“We’re cutting this ribbon, but this is just the beginning. There’s so much left to do in terms of work and convincing people and raising money and continuing to support the building of the trail,” she said.
HCC embarked on a $13 million fundraising campaign about a year ago and has so far raised $9 million, he said. The second seven-mile segment of the trail is scheduled for completion by the end of 2016.
Outdoor retailer REI selected the Violet Crown Trail as one of 10 trails in the U.S. to be part of its “Every Trail Connects” campaign, which launched Aug. 14, said Ivey Kaiser, REI’s outdoor programs and outreach coordinator for Austin.
“Violet Crown Trail has been on our minds for a long time,” she said. “It made sense because REI was looking for a trail that’s going to have mass impact on the region and is going to be something of an iconic location for outdoor recreation enthusiasts.”
REI will invest a total of $500,000 in 10 trails nationwide during the campaign, and online voters determine which trails get the funding. Each time Violet Crown Trail gets a vote, REI will donate $5 to help complete the trail. Visitors can vote once a day at www.votevct.com.
“There is no trail system like this in Central Texas,” Cofer said. “With all our partners, we are setting a new bar for building trails; we are going to set a very high standard.”