Keep Austin's greenbelts safe, healthy, welcoming
We're lucky in Austin. Our trail system goes way beyond urban pathways such as the one that encircles Lady Bird Lake.
Just a few minutes from downtown, we can hike along sheer limestone cliffs, lose ourselves in thickets of ashe juniper and live oak, or, when we're not mired in drought, wade through babbling streams.
But nothing ruins a foray onto the Barton Creek greenbelt more quickly than someone who ignores proper trail etiquette. Whether it's staying on marked trails to prevent erosion, keeping your dog on a leash or yielding to slower trail users, we all should use basic manners when we explore the crown jewel of our city's network of trails.
Many of us head outdoors to enjoy the solitude and do something healthy. It's a shared resource; please take care of it.
Don't cut switchbacks. It might make your hike shorter, but it loosens earth and plants, causing erosion in the long run. You're out on the trail to get some exercise anyway, aren't you?
Speaking of erosion, please don't ride your bike on the greenbelt when it's muddy. It really messes up the trail. When in doubt, call the Barton Creek greenbelt hotline at 974-1250 to check trail conditions.
Don't cut new trails. Step away from the chain saw. Yes, it really is a problem.
Don't harass the wildlife. The greenbelt is home to nesting populations of the endangered golden-cheeked warbler, but even the frogs, squirrels, turtles and nutrias are protected.
It's fine to bring your dog, but keep pets on leashes not more than 6 feet long and pick up after them. And please, drop those bags in the barrels at the trail head. It doesn't do any good if you bag it up and leave it in the woods.
Don't litter. Have you ever encountered a dirty diaper near Gus Fruh pool? Yuck. And help out the lone full-time greenbelt parks employee by packing out any trash you find along the trail.
Bicyclists should yield to joggers; joggers should yield to walkers.
Don't walk, run or ride more than two abreast. Leave ample room for others to safely pass.
No smoking. It's more than annoying to inhale a lung full of smoke on a trail run — it's a fire hazard.
Leave the booze at home. Public consumption of alcohol is prohibited on the Barton Creek greenbelt.
Motor vehicles, including motorcycles, motorbikes, minibikes (and lawn mowers, tractors and rocket ships), are prohibited.
Don't collect firewood or build a fire in the greenbelt.
Don't remove any live tree, shrub, vine, wildflower, grass, sedge, fern, moss lichen, fungus or other member of the plant kingdom without permission from the Parks and Recreation Department.
Leave weapons at home. The Barton Creek greenbelt is no place for a shootout.
The greenbelt is closed from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. Camping is not allowed.
One more thing, notes Charlie McCabe, executive director of the Austin Parks Foundation.
"Volunteer. The Austin Parks Foundation, along with the Greenbelt Guardians and other organizations like the Austin Ridge Riders, the Central Texas Mountaineers and Hill Country Conservancy, organize and host at least three work days a year. ... We need your help."
This year's work days are It's My Park Day on March 3, National Trails Day on June 2 and National Public Lands Day on Sept. 29. More information and sign-ups will be posted closer to the date of each event at www.austinparks.org.