Curfews for city trails may be waived beginning June following council resolution


Maria Arrellaga

Vincent and Sibylle Hohendorf stroll on Shoal Creek Trail Sunday at dusk. The City Council recently proposed a bill to extend the hours of the trail to be accessible 24/7. 

Hannah Jane DeCiutiis

Students who use walking and biking trails such as the Shoal Creek trail adjacent to West Campus may have access to the trails 24/7 because of a resolution passed by City Council waiving current curfews beginning in June.

The three trails included in the resolution are the Shoal Creek, Johnson Creek and Butler Hike & Bike trails, which are currently closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Council Member Chris Riley, who sponsored the bill, said trails need to be considered as a regular and safe form of transportation for pedestrians and bikers.

“More and more Austinites are finding that walking and biking are great ways to get around at all hours,” Riley said. “The trails we’re discussing were funded in part as transportation projects and should be available around the clock just like the other parts of our transportation network.”

Lewis Leff, Riley’s chief of staff, said the resolution passed 6-1 at the council’s meeting Thursday, with Mayor Lee Leffingwell opposing. 

Certain details of the resolution — such as which trails will be included, which hours of the curfew will be waived and how much funding will go into the resolution — are up to the discretion of the council because of amendments added to the resolution on Thursday, Leff said. He said these details will be determined at the council’s Feb. 12 work session. 

Raul Munguia, assistant police chief for the Austin Police Department, said funding is a big piece of the puzzle for council’s determination of which trails to implement in the plan. Munguia estimated that hiring an appropriate number of full-time, year-round patrol officers would cost the city $2.7 million for all three trails to run 24 hours.

“We don’t have those officers. We’d have to recruit, hire and train those officers, which could take anywhere from six months to a year,” Munguia said. “But to have [current] trained officers out on the trails for those time periods, the overtime for a year would be just a little over $3.1 million.”

Leff said the council has been presented with various options regarding which trails to leave open and what kind of police presence is appropriate.

“There’s no telling at this point,” Leff said. “There’s a lot of different ways that this discussion could go. We’re just trying to find a way that works for the people who have been asking for this and that also makes the staff feel comfortable.”

Published on February 4, 2013 as "Curfew times change for certain bike trails".