Trail Conservancy seeks Council feedback on annual programming plan

Thursday, December 8, 2022 by Nina Hernandez

This week City Council will consider an item to approve the Trail Conservancy’s 2022 annual programming plan for the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail at Town Lake Metropolitan Park.

This update on annual programming at the trail comes as a condition of the agreement Council signed with the Trail Conservancy in June. Council and the Parks and Recreation Board will review the first two years of the nonprofit’s programming plans.

Highlights of programming next year include music on the trail, a monthly wellness series called Flow & Thrive, a trail history-themed scavenger hunt, an Earth Day cleanup, and Kids Adopt-a-Garden.

“All of these programs are anchored in our value system to keep the trail a very natural sanctuary and in our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” Heidi Anderson, Trail Conservancy CEO, told the parks board at its Nov. 28 meeting.

As part of the agreement, the programming will never close the trail, and the plan says it “does not currently anticipate hosting any type of event or programming that would require a ‘minimally open’ designation of the trail or parkland in 2023.”

Music on the trail, in particular, performed well, according to Anderson. It helped introduce new users to the trail.

The conservancy is also working on an arts and culture planning project, which is in the final phases of development and community engagement. The work will serve trail users and surrounding communities by featuring local art, cultural attractions and historical education.

Anderson said the community engagement process for the arts and culture project has been an opportunity to engage with the public generally about what works and doesn’t when it comes to general programming. The conservancy conducts surveys at its events to gain feedback.

“We make a real effort to listen to the community,” Anderson said. “If we try something and it’s not successful, then we understand that and we’re happy to move on. We just try some ideas and maybe throw em at the wall and see what sticks.”

Not every program works in every community. For example, the Santa at the Trail program was hugely successful in the Holly neighborhood but the response wasn’t as positive at Auditorium Shores. Anderson says the conservancy will tweak that in the future.

Parks Board Member Dawn Lewis raised concern that there might be too many events, which could impact regular trail users.

“I know there’s also a lot of people that go out to that trail and they want to sit there and just walk the trail and chat with their friend, or they want to get in there and (get in) four miles, five miles, and they’re just focused on that and they really may not appreciate the entertainment and distractions,” Lewis said.

Anderson responded that the conservancy hears that comment from trail users regularly. But, while there may appear to be many events happening, most are scheduled for a limited time frame and don’t involve gatherings that block the trail.

“We are very committed to keeping the space a natural sanctuary,” Anderson said.

The parks board unanimously recommended the plan for Council approval.

Photo by Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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