Public Notice: What Have They Done to Our Park?

What’s left of Waterloo can’t even be called a park

Not a park, but more like a park museum, where visitors can walk by and see what looks like a park on the other side of the barriers (Photos courtesy of Waterloo Greenway)

I made my first visit this past weekend back to Downtown's Waterloo Park, recently reopened after a 10-year closure for construction that included a massive drainage tunnel project below Waller Creek. And ... Oh. My. God. What's left isn't a park, but more like a park museum, where visitors can walk by and see what looks like a park on the other side of the barriers.

It's telling that the "Destinations" page on the new Waterloo Greenway website features a photo slideshow where aside from the aerial shots, seven of the 10 photos are basically of people walking on concrete sidewalks, and the only one that shows any part of Waller Creek, is a toddler looking through a fence at the massive Tunnel Inlet Facility. Ouch. But also, points for truth in advertising, because indeed, the creek is nearly invisible in the new park design; the dominant feature now is a labyrinth of swooping concrete ramps, much more evocative of a freeway cloverleaf than a park. The amphitheatre is nice, with a large expanse of thus far pristine lawn; but with no shade whatsoever, it remains to be seen whether it'll get any use except during concerts. And "no shade" is a theme carried on throughout the "park" – with all the trees and planted areas fenced off, and nowhere to walk that's not cement or stone, it's pretty brutal at midday, with the only relief coming at underpasses where one concrete ramp passes underneath another.

It's especially sad, because under all that new concrete, there was a nice tract of undeveloped parkland – one of the last in Downtown – and now it's gone forever, buried under concrete. I feel bad because I usually try to use this column to tell you about things that are ongoing or in the future, that are still actionable, but this one's a complete lost cause. All we can do is try to be more vigilant next time.

[NB: This story originally referred to the Waterloo parkland as "jealously preserved ever since the earliest city plats"; sorry, that's not correct. There was a park down at 10th & Trinity in early days, but Waterloo Park was dedicated in 1976. "Lady Bird Johnson cut the ribbon July 4, 1976 on our Bicentennial," according to letter-writer Linda Perkins.

Next time might be today, as TxDOT's Oak Hill Parkway comes back into court, set for a hearing Thu., Sept. 2, before U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman, who will consider a lawsuit by the Save Barton Creek Assoc­i­a­tion and others, asking TxDOT to consider a less destructive and cheaper design alternative for rebuilding the Oak Hill Y – to "fix the congestion at the intersection and leave the community and Oak Hill's namesake trees intact," as SBCA puts it. They won a temporary ruling last month to stop tree removal ("Trade-Offs and Through­put," Aug. 6), but today's hearing may well decide the matter for good. More on this next week.

And hey, after the bad news about Waller Creek, let's head across town to the other creek that bookends Downtown, where the Shoal Creek Con­serv­ancy is celebrating their annual Shoal Creek Social, with a two-week-long scavenger hunt that started this week, and two in-person Creek­side Hangouts the next two Saturdays, Sept. 4 & 11, 9am-1pm at Duncan Park on Ninth St., and at NW District Park-South, 6600 Shoal Creek Blvd. There'll be food, drinks, and various activities each day at both locations, as the Conserv­ancy raises money for its mission to improve the creek and trail. See for full info.

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Waterloo Park, Waller Creek, Waterloo Greenway, Oak Hill Parkway, TxDOT, Save Barton Creek Association, Shoal Creek Conservancy

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