Waterloo Park reopens to public after decade of closure

Koshik Mahapatra

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the October 1 flipbook.

Visitors can now come to the newly reimagined Waterloo Park, which reopened in August for the first time in a decade as part of a larger project to improve the greenway on Waller Creek running through downtown Austin.

The city has renovated the 11-acre park, which used to be largely green space, into an area with 1.5 miles of hike-and-bike trails, an elevated skywalk that spans the length of the park and a 5,000-seat Moody Amphitheater, an outdoor space for ticketed events.

“The old park was certainly nice, but it was very different,” said Stuart Reichler, natural sciences associate professor of practice. “The (new) park, I feel like, is a little more interactive where people can walk through it and see it and find different parts of the park to sit and relax in.

Waterloo Park, which is near Dell Medical School, closed its doors in 2011 for the construction of a flood tunnel to alleviate the park’s flash flooding issues, said Susan Kenzle, project manager for the Austin Watershed Protection Department.

However, setbacks and budget increases due to tunnel design flaws prevented the flood control project from being operable until 2018, according to CBS Austin. After the tunnel was completed in 2018, the city began renovation work on the park. 

In 1998, Austin citizens approved construction of the Waller Creek Tunnel, a massive runoff tunnel to free up 28 acres of land downtown for development, according to the city of Austin master plan. As part of the plan, city leaders envisioned a greenway of parks and open spaces stretching from E. 15th St. to Lady Bird Lake that would be connected by bike trails, including Waterloo Park. 

“The idea of being able to bicycle through downtown without having to interact with traffic is fabulous,” Reichler said. “I’m hoping that the (greenway) will … be a nice kind of respite from the busy hustle bustle of whatever downtown.”

Lisa Storer, project manager for the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department, said she is glad Austinites can enjoy the park once again after a decade of closure. 

“With Waterloo being closed for so long, it was kind of a little bit forgotten,” Storer said. “Now that it’s back in the public realm, it’s just been great to see the way the city has been embracing it.”