In advance of the new Boardwalk Trail officially opening on June 7th we spent a few minutes chatting with Executive Director Susan Rankin who has led The Trail Foundation through some monumental construction projects and greatly improved one of Austin’s greatest treasures.
How did you find your way to Austin?
I came to Austin to attend the University of Texas and got a degree in botany.
What is it that makes you so passionate about your job and the trail?
I have been running at the Trail for a long time and have such good friends from our times running together there, be it training for races over the years or just keeping in shape and enjoying the beauty of the Trail. Working for The Trail Foundation is fantastic because it melds my interests from conservation and plants to fitness to building community. And I get to work with so many interesting people; it remains challenging and interesting even after almost 8 years.
Do you have a favorite section of the trail where you spend the most time?
My favorite area is the section west of Lou Neff Point where the giant bald cypress trees are.
You have seen through countless projects including the Johnson Creek trailhead, Miro Rivera bathroom, Between the Bridges and now the boardwalk. Is there any one project that you are most proud of?
The Boardwalk; it is stunningly beautiful and will be iconic for Austin. It took many years of TTF leadership and persistence, and will benefit so many people.
How far back does the idea of a boardwalk go and when was the point that it became a reality?
Butch Smith, a visionary Parks Department employee, conceived the Boardwalk over 20 years ago. Even though The Trail Foundation completed our Riverside Boardwalk Investment Study in 2007, it did not seem to me that it was a certainty until we were able to get the public funds in the 2010 bond package in addition to the $3 million in private funds we committed toward the construction costs. Seeing it take shape over the lake made it feel truly real.
How many donors helped ensure the success of the project? Who are the big corporate partners/sponsors?
The major donors include Ann S. Butler, the Moody Foundation of Galveston, St. David’s Foundation, H-E-B, Whataburger and Lynne Dobson family, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, James M Cox Foundation (Cox family owns the Austin American-Statesman), Jones Energy, Luci Baines Johnson, CDK Riverside, Grayco, Cypress Real Estate Advisors, Texas Gas Service/ONEOK Foundation, Q1Media, Cirrus Logic, and hundreds of individual donors.
A full list of donors at and above $250 is available for viewing HERE.
What is the next focus for the Trail Foundation?
We are going to build a new restroom, designed by Mell Lawrence Architects, across from the Town Lake YMCA. And we are building a pedestrian bridge over the creek east of the youth hostel, about 1/4 mile east of the Boardwalk. We’ll continue our conservation work through our Healthy Trees for the Trail program, which includes planting native trees to shade, beautify, and provide habitat for birds and other wildlife.
How can someone get involved with the organization? Are there regular cleanups? Anything other than participating in the Margarita Run?
Of course, we want everyone who uses the Butler Trail to join as a member! And people can sign up for The Trail Foundation’s e-newsletter so they can see the various volunteer opportunities during the year. You can sign-up here: http://bit.ly/1hz3vUH.
TexasRunningPost.com will be on hand for the annual Moonlight Margarita Run 5K on Thursday, June 12th.