Trail Foundation installs new benches on Boardwalk

The Trail Foundation (TTF) has installed nine new seating areas on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at various overlook points along its 1.2-mile Boardwalk, the Foundation’s most acclaimed project to date, as part of TTF’s new “Adopt a Bench” program. Once completed, the project will consist of 20 benches total.

Designed by Studio Balcones and brought to life by Hatch Workshop, the seating areas are made from native trees removed within Austin that were reclaimed and reimagined as custom-designed benches. Each bench has a plaque that shows the species name of the tree and the zip code from which it was removed.

TTF’s Adopt a Bench program gives members of the public the opportunity to dedicate a bench to honor a loved one or friend and personalize a part of the Trail. All proceeds benefit The Trail Foundation, the nonprofit organization that preserves, enhances, and connects the Butler Trail at Lady Bird Lake for the benefit of all.

The first nine benches were installed earlier this summer at four Boardwalk water overlook points: two at East Bouldin, three at Blunn, two at Norwood, and two at Middle Bluff.

An anonymous Trail supporter generously adopted a Boardwalk Bench in honor of longtime TTF volunteer and Trail user, Eloy Ojeda, who is referred to by many as “the spirit of the Trail.” Located at the Middle Bluff overlook point, Ojeda’s bench is engraved with his name and made out of a Live Oak tree from the 78702 zip code that was removed because it was at the end of its lifespan.

On the morning of Sept. 20, a group of Ojeda’s friends and fellow TTF supporters (the “Eloy fan club” as they to call themselves) surprised Ojeda at his adopted bench when he went to see it for the first time. The informal ceremony was complete with breakfast tacos from Maudie’s Tex-Mex, shared memories and laughter, and breathtaking views of Lady Bird Lake.

Ojeda says: “The Trail is like a community to me. I’ve met all my friends here. It’s my happy place. I’m retired now and starting to get older. This bench feels like a place on the Trail that is my very own. I can come here to think back on all the people I met over the years and all the memories I made here on the Trail.”

An additional 11 benches will be installed over the next several weeks at various other Boardwalk overlook points including, I-35, East Bluff, and Festival Point.

Heidi Anderson, executive director of The Trail Foundation, says: “These benches are creating spaces for remembrance, rest, and contemplation for all to enjoy. Adopting a bench is a beautiful and impactful way to personalize a part of the Trail and honor someone special.”

Of the 11 yet-to-be-installed Boardwalk Benches, one has already been adopted and TTF has received verbal commitments for several others; however, they will remain available for adoption until payment has been processed.

“We strongly encourage those who are interested in adopting a Boardwalk Bench to act fast because this special opportunity won’t last long,” says Anderson.

A limited number of benches are available, and they can be reserved on a first-come basis. Adoptions last 10 years, and adopters receive first right of refusal to renew for another decade. Bench adoption is $12,500 and includes dedication engraving and maintenance for the duration of the adoption period.

In alignment with TTF’s priority of ecological restoration, the benches are made from reclaimed white oak trees removed because they are at the end of their lifespan, pose a safety hazard, or are approved for construction removal. Through this process, the trees’ life cycle will not end once they are removed; they will be repurposed in a way that is functional, beautiful, and appreciated by the 2.6 million annual Trail users.

Studio Balcones, a highly respected and experienced landscape architecture firm, designed the benches to harmoniously blend with the surrounding built and natural environments. Harvest Lumber Company reclaimed the unprocessed wood, and Hatch Workshop completed the high-quality fabrication.

TTF’s “Adopt a Bench” program is offered in collaboration with the Urban Forestry Grant Program. Entire platforms are also available for adoption, subject to availability.

For questions regarding bench adoption, please contact TTF’s development director Rachel Rountree at 512-791-7572 or development manager Kelly Grajeda at 512-699-5902.

For more information or to adopt a bench today while they are still available, visit https://thetrailfoundation.org/portfolio/boardwalk-benches/.