The Trail Foundation, City of Austin explore expanding partnership of Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail

A group of nationally renowned urban planning experts representing the Urban Land Institute will make recommendations next week to The Trail Foundation and the Austin Parks and Recreation Department on the feasibility of transferring operation of the Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake to The Trail Foundation. The Austin American-Statesman ran an exclusive front-page story on the topic.

In partnership with PARD, TTF applied and was selected in a competitive process to be part of the Urban Land Institute’s Advisory Services Program to have their experts’ opinions to help launch the exploration of TTF taking over operations of the Butler Trail.

“We are honored and excited to have been selected for this opportunity and grateful for the valuable input as we consider this option,” says Heidi Anderson, executive director of The Trail Foundation. “Taking this potential step would be a big commitment for TTF in terms of funding and organizational growth, and the ULI Advisory Service Program is one of the ways we will explore the feasibility of the potential transition.”

In recent years, the Foundation has doubled its amount of ecological restoration work on the Trail. In 2018, TTF invested more than $2.5 million into the Butler Trail, and in its 16-year history has invested more than $11,300,000 into the Trail. TTF is currently working on three major projects, with 15 more in the queue, and is committed to increasing the pace and breadth of its work to meet the needs of the Trail as its popularity and usage continue to grow along with Austin.

The ULI representatives will be visiting sites and neighborhoods in the city, and conducting interviews with key leaders and stakeholders arranged by TTF and PARD August 25-30. The Advisory Services panelists will consider:

  • How to determine the liability and authority over the space;
  • When to transfer operations over the trail, including prioritizing the transfer and phasing;
  • Funding recommendations, brand development and philanthropic growth and cultivation; and
  • How to prioritize the various projects involved with maintaining the trail.

In any scenario, the City would continue to own the public parkland that is the Trail.

According to Julie Underhal, chair of the Austin Advisory Service panel: “Our goal is to help the city and The Trail Foundation achieve their mutual goals of achieving the best possible operating relationship between the two entities so that the Trail can continue to be improved and maintained as an iconic place and economic, social, and natural resource for generations to come.”

About The Trail Foundation

The Trail Foundation’s mission is to protect, enhance, and connect the Butler Hike-and-Bike-Trail at Lady Bird Lake for the benefit of all. The Butler Trail is the 10-mile lush, urban path in the heart of Austin that gets more than 2.6 million visits every year. Since it was founded in 2003, The Trail Foundation has achieved restoration and beautification projects to the Trail’s infrastructure and environment, while honoring the original vision of the Trail’s founders and ensuring its vibrancy for generations to come. For more information, please visit