We held our last big workday on March 03, the Austin Parks Foundation's It's My Park Day - Spring event. Sixty-three neighborhood and community volunteers put in a total of 185 hours of labor at the Homedale entrance.  Major accomplishments included the removal of lots of invasive nandina and ligustrum, some runoff management and trail repairs, and the usual trimming, weeding, graffiti removal, and trash pick up in the area.  I didn't take a single photo that day, so if anyone has any pictures to share, please send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.and we'll put them up on our website.

In April, our leadership team finally got together when we weren't working to celebrate the 15th anniversary of our first workday back in 2003.  We usually end up hot, tired, dirty, and hungry when we see each other, so it was nice to just hang out, relax, eat, drink, and enjoy each other's company for a change. 

National Trails Day at Gus Fruh

On June 02, National Trails Day, five of us spent a hot and humid morning working at the Gus Fruh access.  We got an amazing amount done including building a new set of rock steps to connect the Gus Fruh access trail to the Violet Crown / main greenbelt trail on the far side of the creekbed, and closing off the dirt / mud hillside next to it that was previously being used.  We moved a lot of flood debris, gravel, rock, and brush that day, and it really looks good and works well,  Please get down there and check it out when you have a chance.  Many thanks to Rosalie Russell, Mark Stachew, Nathan Wilkins, and Mark Salinas with Parks and Rec - you guys rock! 

We plan to lay low again this summer during the worst of the heat, but hope to organize another mini-workday or two at Gus Fruh to build a few more steps on this side of the creek with some more of the donated stone that we have stockpiled.

Our next major workday will be on Saturday September 29, National Public Lands Day.  Then on Saturday November 03, we'll do another big project for It's My Park Day - Fall.  Stay tuned for upcoming information on locations, times, and sign up.

by Glee Ingram

Sasha

We came into being due to the love of a dog and the lack of a fence. Those variables translated into daily walks in the neighborhood with the dog, and the discovery of the Homedale entry into the Barton Creek Greenbelt.

It was a bit like Alice in Wonderland, finding this lovely natural Hill Country landscape with the episodically flowing creek. For someone who grew up on a dry land farm during the midst of the great drought, this was paradise. But it was a paradise that was experiencing neglect and occasional abuse. My professional landscaper eyes saw the intrusions of invasive foreign plants, and drainage and erosion challenges to the dirt trails, and trash, and even old car disposals.

I began inquiring at the Austin Parks Department to see if and how volunteers might participate in maintaining the trails, and worked with then BHNA President Robin McKeever to establish how we might engage our neighborhood in the work required. She suggested that we set up a committee under the Neighborhood Association that would organize and oversee volunteer greenbelt trail work days. That committee became the Greenbelt Guardians.

We worked with The City of Austin Parks Department to set up a formal adoption agreement in March of 2003, for the sections of the greenbelt that fall within the Barton Hills neighborhood: from the Zilker park trail entry starting below the Barton Creek dam, to the Homedale and Spyglass entry trails, to the Gus Fruh entry trail ending at the Highway 360 trail entry.

For two years we had small work days with volunteers recruited through our Barton Hills Neighborhood Association website and newsletter. A steady core of dedicated volunteers showed up, and became the leadership team of our quarterly workdays. In 2005, we got a small grant and began working as a park adopter under the fiduciary umbrella of the Austin Parks Foundation, which offered small grants to groups that engaged in park improvements.

Since that time, we have been fortunate to obtain grant funds from some private donors for habitat restoration, plus a grant from TCEQ (Texas Center for Environmental Quality). We have also collaborated with the Austin Parks Foundation on the execution of privately funded activities to improve environmental integrity and trail improvement activities.

As the city has grown, so has the use of the greenbelt, as a refuge from urban stresses. In response to these pressures, a larger, collaborative response has been created to assure that our precious greenbelt and publicly accessible natural lands are protected. More information to come in our next newsletter about the larger collaborative efforts for expanding and managing what is known as the Violet Crown Trail.

After a slow start in 2017, the Greenbelt Guardians had a busy fall.  We only held one workday between January and September (It’s My Park Day in March), but made up for it with three workdays at the end of the year.  A fourth workday was cancelled due to bad weather.  Here’s a brief summary of what we accomplished:

On Saturday Sept 30th, National Public Lands Day, 19 volunteers contributed a total of 66 hours of labor at the Gus Fruh access.  Major tasks included invasives removal and the completion of the rock steps leading down to the creek on the east side.

On Saturday November 4th, the Austin Parks Foundation's fall "It's My Park Day", we had 50 volunteers who contributed a total of 142 hours of labor at the Homedale entrance.  Major tasks were invasives removal, graffiti removal, and rock work in the gully by the bridge and where the trail ends at the flats.

On Friday December 8th, we were supposed to host a group of 20 volunteers from Apple for a service day at Gus Fruh, but the snow the night before caused it to be postponed.  That workday was part of a larger Apple service project organized by the Hill Country Conservancy.  It has been rescheduled for Thursday February 22nd.

On Saturday December 9th, we worked with Barton Hills neighbor and Austin High School senior Jude Sabo and a group of his classmates who organized a service project at Gus Fruh.  17 volunteers put in a total of 50 hours of labor and did a great job of refurbishing and extending the steps that exit the creek bed on the far (west) side.

Our next regular workday will be on Saturday March 03, APF’s spring “It’s My Park Day”.  No matter your age or physical ability, there’s always something you can do to help, so please make plans to join us!  We’ll announce the location and how to sign up soon.

Ken Russell

On a sad note, we lost one of our long-time volunteers and a big part of our Greenbelt Guardian family, Ken Russell, on December 4th.  Ken and his wife Rosalie started working with us in 2005, shortly after moving to Barton Hills, and they quickly became regulars and leaders.  While Rosalie liked to pull out invasives, Ken seemed to prefer the engineering side of things, usually working on trail repair or on one of our many rock projects.  He became our resident expert in the proper mixing of mortar, and either performed or oversaw that task almost every time we did any rock work.  He was also good at working the registration table and greeting volunteers. We will miss not only his contributions to our work, but also the stories, jokes, knowledge, and enthusiasm that he shared so freely with everyone around him.

Here are a few photos of Ken working with us over the years.