Saving The BCP

The proposed route for the Fire Break Parkway. Photo credit to savebcp.org

The proposed route for the Fire Break Parkway. Photo credit to savebcp.org

“Fire Break Parkway”. A simple enough concept that would supposedly provide a fire break (which is a road that may stop fires from spreading), offer an evacuation route and give emergency responders quicker access to the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCP). Seems like a good idea at first, doesn’t it? Would you still support this idea if you knew it would stretch across the green hills and valleys of the BCP that surround Canyon Vista? What if you knew that it would create a dangerous and prolonged way to school, and that building it would probably destroy different animals’ habitats, some of which are already on the threatened or endangered list? There are a lot more cons, controversial pros, and facts to know before you decide whose side you are on — OUR preserve or the city that wants to take it away from us.

Don Zimmerman, the city council representative of the general area around Canyon Vista, proposed the idea for the Fire Break Parkway. The road would connect 2222 to Highway 183 via Spicewood Springs Road, and cost tens of millions of dollars to build. It would be just as wide as Spicewood with two lanes on each side and a median as well. The proposed road would create an evacuation route for Four Points Middle School and Vandegrift High School, which in case of an emergency would no doubt help students and staff get to safety. It would also relieve traffic congestion on 2222 and 620 (two VERY packed roads) as well as prevent wildfires, help emergency responders get to and across the preserve, and create a hike and bike trail.

With a road running through the heart of BCP, just imagine how much roadkill there would be! Not to mention the fact that there are eight endangered species as well as 27 species of concern in the BCP. Also, building this road would most definitely kill several animals and destroy countless habitats.

The traffic on 2222 and 620 may be reduced a bit in the morning and evening when people are going to and from work — but who will be caught in the middle of all the people using the Fire Break Parkway? Us! Going to school would be more dangerous with the added traffic, and getting to school everyday would also take a lot longer. We’ve all seen how many cars have to wait in line when students get dropped off. Now add the people trying to get to work at the same time and you have a nightmare.

The Fire Break Parkway is also obviously there to provide a fire break (hence the name), which is something that stops a fire from spreading. However, in the event of a life threatening wild fire, this road WILL NOT stop the embers from jumping across the road! The road will help firefighters get to the preserve quicker, but what will happen if a fire occurs during rush hours? No one is promising that the Fire Break Parkway won’t be just as packed as every other road in Austin, so the firefighters wouldn’t be there any quicker! Most fires are caused by humans, so who honestly thinks that by giving humans access to the preserve, something bad won’t happen? Julie Li, a resident near the BCP, voiced her point very well at the District 6 Town Hall meeting, saying, “We know that a lot of wildfires are caused by people throwing cigarette butts out the car window. You add that to the fuels, which are trees and you’re asking for an increased chance of wildfires through this preserve.” To piece everything together, the Fire Break Parkway would create a big mumbo jumbo of a mess, and mumbo jumbos don’t fix anything.

Neighborhoods surrounding Spicewood Springs Road have recognized all the negative impacts and have joined together to oppose the road. They have created a website and Facebook page to raise awareness and help stop the road. Follow “Preserve Our Preserve” on Facebook to stay updated on what’s happening with the Fire Break Parkway and go to savebcp.org if you want to know exactly how you can contribute to stop the building of the road.

All in all, this road creates a lot more problems than it solves. The BCP already has a fire access road that only firefighters can use, so the Fire Break Parkway isn’t necessary. There are better ways to alleviate traffic, assure safety for residents in case of a fire, and provide Austinites with better roads to get around. We just need to put our thinking caps on and solve our problems with a better idea, because this proposed solution will just cause more problems.