Barkley Meadows Park offers key link for trail

Trail will eventually be 21 miles long in parks along Onion Creek.

ByAndra Lim

One park down, two to go.

Barkley Meadows Park, which opened this fall in Del Valle, contains 2½ miles of concrete paths that provide a key link in a larger trail that’s planned to one day stretch for 21 miles through a series of parks along Onion Creek.

Items still on Travis County’s to-do list include building a park where the creek meets the Colorado River, which will be the eastern terminus of the trail. Once the county finishes buying out homes in the flood-prone Timber Creek subdivision, that area will also be turned into a park.

Throw in a trailhead near U.S. 183, and the county’s finished its part of filling in the gaps between county, city and state parks to create a continuous hike and bike trail.

That overall vision was part of what prompted the two Barkley sisters to sell and donate land that had been in their family for more than a century. The string of parks, JaNet Barkley-Booher said, will ultimately be “like pearls on a necklace.”

Her sister, Carolyn Barkley, chimed in, “Ours turned out to be the diamond in the necklace.”

Barkley Meadows Park was funded with $2.7 million from a 2011 parks bond measure —

funds will be the main source of cash for the other forthcoming parks in the Onion Creek Greenway — and a $1 million grant from the state. The park opened in September and will host a grand opening Friday.

Originally, the roughly 60-acre park was supposed to open last year. It was nearing completion when the 2013 Halloween floods hit, blanketing every inch of the park with water, said Tim Speyrer, the county’s east district park manager.

Earlier this year, the county hired a firm for $533,880 to repair the park. The play structure area’s artificial turf originally had a foam layer underneath — which floated away in the flood — and has been replaced with a rubber surface, Speyrer said. The pond now has a spillway; a net of fibers covers its banks to prevent erosion, he said.

Another feature of the pond is a launching area for kayaks and catch-and-release fishing. Dan Ber-doll, whose family is the namesake of the pond, said he stocked the water with catfish and bass for his family to catch before selling the land to the county.

One branch of the park’s trails follows part of the old two-lane Texas 71, which was later replaced by a section that runs along the edge of Barkley Meadows and is visible through the trees. The Texas 130 tollway cuts through another side of the park.

“You do hear the traffic but it’s just the sound of the city, so it doesn’t bother me,” said Eris Gentle of Del Valle, who was at the park on Monday afternoon with her two children. “You also hear the wind blowing through the trees, and that’s a lovely sound.”

Berdoll said his family moved off the land around 2003, after the Texas Department of Transportation placed the north-south tollway in the middle of their field. The Berdolls had raised cattle and grown crops there, such as corn and wheat.

The Barkley family also used their land for growing crops, such as cotton and hay, Barkley-Booher said. She and her sister, who didn’t grow up on the land, recall visiting the property for picnics and family gatherings. Even in the middle of July, the shade from a grove of pecan trees — which now tower over the play structure area — kept them cool, Barkley-Boo-her said.

“We just thought, ‘We should share it with people,’ ” she said.

Contact Andra Lim at 512-445-3972.

Twitter: @AndraCLim