Senna Hills, Austin, Tx

Posted by Ryan Spates in S&S Project Gallery, S&S Trails Blog on Dec. 3, 2009 - 1:29 pm

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S&S Trail Services recently completed the first natural surface trail system in the Senna Hills community on Bee Cave Road in west Austin. The project development followed a convoluted path and came about in part due to a referral from our former business partner, who was unavailable to complete the project himself when the opportunity arose. Last spring several members of the board of directors for the homeowner’s association (HOA) decided that a trail would be a nice amenity for the neighborhood. The Senna Hills community is near the Barton Creek West neighborhood, which has trails that were developed many years ago and our company has performed maintenance work on over the past few years. Apparently homeowners in Senna Hills would sometimes venture over to Barton Creek West to utilize the trail system, as they had no trails available in their own back yard. The HOA board members knew that a nice parcel of land owned by the community was not going to be utilized for building new homes, and would therefore be available as protected green space that could have a trail built on it to allow the homeowners to walk and bicycle in the woods.

After gaining the support of the homeowners and the local Municipal Utility District (MUD), construction began in the third week of October. This was just in time for one of the wettest fall seasons in recent history! On the third day of construction, heavy rains started that led to sporadic delays throughout the entire 5-week process. Fortunately there were usually other tasks that could be performed when it was too wet to run the dozer, such as cedar clearing, bridge and retaining-wall construction, and trailhead development. We had originally planned to complete the project in 4 weeks, so although we ran a little bit over, it didn’t cause any significant problems as we had a little extra time to spare going into Thanksgiving week.

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And it was nice that the trail was completed just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, because we overheard trail users on the last day we worked there talking about how they looked forward to going for walks with their families after eating the Thanksgiving feast. Similar to other projects we’ve completed in the past, it was nice to see community members who “found” the trail early on start to use it before we were even done building. The residents seemed very excited to have a path in their neighborhood available for them to explore the woods and see the pretty little running creek down in a hidden ravine. The trail follows what we call a “lollipop” configuration, in that there is a long single path that eventually splits off into a small loop that then feeds back into the original path that returns to the trailhead. Total new construction was approximately 1.15 miles, which turns into a 2+ mile walk or bike ride for residents if they complete the whole circuit and wind up back where they started.

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Feedback from the community members and HOA board of directors has been overwhelmingly positive, and future plans for the residents to complete include installation of signs and some benches where we cut side trails out to scenic overlooks. After the official grand opening later this month and a trial period of trail use, if the community supports it there will be plans for a Phase II expansion of the trail system with further loops branching off from the main trail. These future planned trails will be more narrow and rugged, to provide additional mileage and a more challenging experience to trail hikers, runners, and mountain bike riders. The Senna Hills project was a very rewarding and enjoyable experience for us. Many homeowners came out to do volunteer work with us on several Saturdays during the process, and they got to see the amount of work that goes into creating a new trail and feel a sense of ownership in the creation of a new amenity for their neighborhood. Not only did we get to work with a friendly and motivated group of homeowners, but it was so exciting that the project was in our hometown. We got to stay in our own house and sleep in our own bed during the entire project! And visit with our friends during the week, and go to Austin community events and act like normal people with normal jobs. It was great! We look forward to future work in Austin with this great neighborhood and other communities like them.

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