Waller Creek is a thin, urban riparian ecosystem that meanders for seven miles from the northern part of the city southward through The University of Texas at Austin campus and along the eastern edge of the downtown area before it meets Lady Bird Lake, which is, itself, part of the Colorado River. The Conservancy cares deeply about the entire creek and its 3,700 acre watershed but is focusing its efforts on the lower 1.5 miles.
Over the years, this 15 block stretch has suffered from erosion, invasive species, and pollution. Today it is largely hidden by partial channelization and disengaged development. Lower Waller Creek can also be dangerous. Although in many places it is no more than 15 feet wide, it can swell to over 50 times its normal size during extreme flood events. Today, though, there is the opportunity to imagine a different Waller Creek, one that is a vital component of urban infrastructure, an open stage for social interaction, and a restored source of natural beauty.
In asking leading professionals to re-envision the role of a small creek in the context of a densely populated urban area, the competition organizers recognize an all too commonly neglected resource for cities around the world. In seeking answers, Conservancy members and supporters not only expect specific solutions that reflect the environmental and cultural contexts of Austin, they also anticipate new paradigms that will advance landscape and urban design thinking. With an expected construction budget of between $50 and $60 million, Waller Creek represents the biggest small creek transformation in the nation.
Registration deadline is Dec. 16. For more information, visit www.wallercreek.org.