Michelle Bright, GenWaller Volunteer Committee Chair, shares her experience with the Conservancy and why she supports a restored Waller Creek.
How did you first learn about Waller Creek?
I had just started the Master of Landscape Architecture program at the University of Texas School of Architecture in 2010. That fall, I noticed the 2nd year students being put to the test by Dr. Allan Shearer with a design studio dedicated to Waller Creek. I was half horrified—and half highly curious—knowing my time would come to take the course.
It was my turn a year later and—just as promised—it was a full on immersion into the Waller Creek revitalization project. All the complexities, challenges, and opportunities of the design were laid out right in front of us. It was energizing to know that professional firms were tackling these same questions at the same time (the design competition was happening then). I’m endlessly grateful to Dr. Shearer for sharing this project with his students and highlighting the type of work landscape architects and designers can and should influence.
What aspect of the Waller Creek project interests you most?
I am interested on many different levels. I think the process is fascinating, with the public-private partnerships and the urban complexities. I’m interested in the way design, specifically landscape architecture, can transform urban areas. I’m most energized by the addition of revitalized green space–these green ribbons coming up from Lady Bird Lake into the city connecting people to a place, to other species, and to each other.
Why did you join Generation Waller?
I already cared about the cause but it really was the people that made me join. I wanted to work with the highly motivated and awesome Conservancy staff and the GenWaller steering committee. I also joined to spend more time on the creek.
What is your favorite Generation Waller memory?
It was the Waller Creek Clean-up for Austin Parks Foundation’s It’s My Park Day. We picked an area, the mouth of the creek, that is harder to access and the water is deeper. We notified our volunteers that this was the case and they should come prepared to get a little wet and maybe a bit dirty. This didn’t sway them one bit; they came out with chest waders and rubber boots, collecting debris from all areas of the stream. To me, these clean-ups are way more than making a dent, an honestly small dent, in trash on the creek but more about getting people to explore Waller Creek in a different way.
What is your favorite part of the creek?
There are so my places along Waller Creek that I draw inspiration from and like to explore. When I first moved to Austin I saw my first wood ducks (Aix sponsa) in the island deltas at the mouth of the stream. There is almost always a teaming ecosystem of waterfowl and herpetofauna down in that area. I’ve also had great experiences enjoying views of riparian critters at Iron Works; the deck gives a great perspective onto the water. It’s hard not to love the limestone outcrops in the upper reaches of the creek north of 7th Street. When down along the water, it is cool and peaceful as if you stumbled upon a hidden Hill County stream. Go urban adventuring and find out for yourself!
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