Walk and Draw Along the Lake

Help create a people's field guide to the South Central Waterfront

Walk and Draw Along the Lake
Courtesy of South Central Waterfront Initiative

The South Central Waterfront Initiative will kick off a “very intensive four months of planning,” as City of Austin Principal Planner Alan Holt puts it, with two Walk and Draw Walkshops this week (6:30pm, Thu., Aug 27, and Sat., Aug. 29).

Members of the public are invited to come to the Statesman Bat Observatory, underneath the Congress Bridge, and receive clipboard, paper, and pen and help produce a People’s Field Guide, to “reflect on what is and what was.” The field guide will be part of Austin’s Atlas’ illustrated pedestrian guides; previous guides can be found on the Austin’s Atlas website. Artist Ann Armstrong will be on hand to assist participants (see “The Cartography of Home: Austin's Atlas,” July 24). Each participant’s contribution will be combined to make a single map.

The collaboration between SCWI and Austin's Atlas is a long time in the making. Armstrong says she first met Holt two years ago when he passed through her studio during the East Austin Studio Tour. He was interested in her work with maps, but it wasn't until Armstrong and fellow map-maker Emma Schmidt came up with the idea of walk and draws that the right opportunity presented itself for a joint project.

People who aren't particularly artistically gifted should not feel intimidated about participating, because they can document the section they're assigned in other ways, Armstrong says. They can draw a diagram, or write a story. She says that although a lot of the waterfront is currently parking lots, it's important to "look closely at what's there, even if it's not good and not beautiful." She says if people look closely enough, "there's humanism there."

The family friendly events are just the beginning of the a series that Holt hopes will engage the community in the process of helping to develop a master plan for the 97-acre waterfront, which is bounded by South First on the west, Blunn Creek to the east, Lady Bird Lake on the north, and East Riverside Drive and Bouldin Creek on the south.

Last year, Austin received a “Greening America’s Capitals” grant from the EPA that is helping fund the commission of design options for the waterfront that will improve pedestrian and bike connections, include green infrastructure that reduces stormwater runoff and localized flooding, improve water quality, and offer more shade, according to SCWI’s website. The EPA hired CMG Landscape Architects to work with the city on project designs.

Next week, there will be two design workshops (6:30pm, Tues., Sept. 1, and Thu., Sept. 3) that will allow the public to view alternative design visions. The master plan will affect the next 10 years of public and private development along the waterfront, as Holt notes. He says he knows that public meetings can be less than compelling, so SCWI will have petting zoos, Amy’s Ice Creams, and glitter tattoos in order to add some levity to the design workshops as well as make it more feasible for people with young children to attend. “We want people to have fun, get engaged, and get involved,” he says.

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