Monday, August 06, 2007

Austin's Lady Bird Lake

Lady Bird Johnson (1912-2007) took on "highway beautification" as a project while she was First Lady in the Sixties. Pretty safe choice for a fifty-something Southern lady, in a socially tumultuous decade. Except... her beautification agenda eventually paid off for a civil rights movement anyway. By working for more park land and recreational spaces close to urban areas, Johnson paved the way (almost literally) for wheelchair-accessible recreation areas, too.

Town Lake in Austin, Texas, was one example of this phenomenon. Formerly a "garbage-strewn eyesore," in the words of one former mayor, the Lake (really a reservoir) has since become a "jewel" in the state capital. Hundreds of trees were planted, trails were laid out, and it's now a favorite spot for many Austin residents. After leaving the White House, the Johnsons were Austin residents themselves; and after her stroke in 2001, Lady Bird used a wheelchair. Her daughter Luci said that they loved to go around the lake trail in her last years. "We discovered it was wheelchair accessible--although not quite enough," said Luci.

Now that the lake has been renamed Lady Bird Lake, Luci hopes that the city will honor the spirit of its namesake, improving and increasing the accessible trail's reach. (As Katja recently observed, some people really do want recreational wheelchair access that goes more than a few hundred feet.) If you're in Austin sometime, go see if they've met that goal.

Prefer to stay on the West Coast? The Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National Park also boasts a one-mile wheelchair-accessible trail.


Greg said...

great blog, thanks!

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