Waller Creek Conservancy Rebrands to Waterloo Greenway
Don't worry, the creek hasn't changed its name
As of Wednesday evening, Aug. 21, as the Chronicle went to press, Waller Creek Conservancy will henceforth be known as the Waterloo Greenway – as will its ambitious project to revitalize the creek on Downtown's eastern edge, from Lady Bird Lake up to 15th Street.
Before panic begins to set in, note that nothing else is being renamed: Waller Creek itself retains its legacy title, as do the two existing parks in the Greenway: Waterloo to the north and Palm to the south. According to Waterloo Greenway CEO Peter Mullan, the renaming project – in the works for the past year – has been "by far the most challenging thing we've had to engage in. It's very emotional for a lot of people. I think we, in the end, ended up with something that is descriptive [and] open-ended," like the project itself.
The final choice reflects the project's ties to Austin's history – the first settlement between Waller and Shoal Creeks was named Waterloo, which Mullan explained basically means "water" and "sacred forest." The new name also bonds the project to the existing 11-acre park that's been closed for six years, with plans to reopen (complete with a 5,000-seat amphitheater, which Mullan called "a significant part of the project") in the fall of 2020. "Greenway," on the other hand, offers a unique identity that "Waller Creek" couldn't – since the waterway itself is "both less than and more" than the organization's scope – which goes beyond the creek's banks to the parks and trails, but not along Waller's full length several miles north.
The Conservancy was formed in 2010 in collaboration with the city, to create a new public space Downtown along the creek that formed the original divide between East and West Austin. Using as touchstones both New York's High Line and Central Parks, the now-Greenway aims to bring a "different kind of park system" to Austin, explained Mullan, restoring the degraded creek and connecting the city's new urban environment to nature in an effort to "stitch" Austinites together. "Everybody's getting pushed farther apart, and this was used as a dividing line for such a long time – how do we use that as a seam to pull these [communities] together?" asked Mullan.
The rebrand is intended to get people excited about the reopening of Waterloo Park – once known for the events held there, including the Austin Pride Festival and the Chronicle's Hot Sauce Festival – as well as reshaping the Greenway. Embracing what Mullan described as "childlike" fonts and bright, vibrant colors, Mullan and Waterloo Greenway Director of Engagement Meredith Bossin believe the new look will help "communicate the spirit of what we're trying to do," said Bossin. As a venue for an increasing number of programs, including the Pride-inspired Rainbow on the Creek in June and the monthly women of color marketplace Frida Friday, the Greenway satisfies what Bossin sees as a community appetite. "You don't always see families and children Downtown, but that doesn't mean they don't want to be here; it's more that they don't feel like the offerings are for them."
Mullan explains that his ultimate goal is to connect people from all of Austin to nature, especially as the city grows. "We often take that for granted, but as we move away from [the] Waller Creek [namesake], I think it's really important that we emphasize" the importance of green space. "We're a public park, and in many ways, that is our greatest asset."