Grow Zones

Oct 3, 2012 - 10:54 am

Grow Zones

The City of Austin Parks and Recreation (PARD) and Watershed Protection (WPD) departments are working together to improve riparian zones in nineteen city parks.

Examples of mowed, First Year Growth, and 10 year Growth.

What is a riparian zone?

The riparian zone is the transition area between the aquatic environment in the creek channel and the terrestrial environment outside the channel.

Riparian Zone.
Benefits of riparian zones:
  1. Filter storm runoff, removing pollutants before they reach the creek
  2. Prevent stream bank erosion
  3. Slow flow, reducing downstream flooding
  4. Provide a “sponge” that will absorb water
  5. Provide shade that cools air and water temperatures
  6. Provide habitat and food for a diverse group of animals
  7. Reduce the City’s carbon footprint via both sequestration and reduced emissions.
  8. Reduce mowing and maintenance by City staff.
  9. Creates a greenbelt forest and stream amenity with diverse tree and plant communities for outdoor enthusiasts.
A school class walking through a creek.
What is the City doing?
  • Establish a “Grow Zone” along both banks of the creek, approximately 25 ft.
  • Allow for passive (natural) plant growth in entire buffer area.
  • Monitor for changes over time and apply adaptive management approaches where necessary.
  • Coordinate periodic trash removal, weed/invasive vegetation management, and native seeding/planting.
  • Install educational and demarcation signage where appropriate


Grow Zone sign.


What should park users expect?

As the plant community recovers, some areas may have taller, much less manicured vegetation. It can take between 5 and 10 years to develop a diverse vegetation community, so patience is important! 


Who will track progress and/or success?

  • WPD will evaluate changes annually; implement adaptive riparian restoration practices as needed.
  • Volunteer participation is encouraged through the Keep Austin Beautiful, Adopt-A-Creek Program.

City of Austin Research Findings:

Early results suggest that establishing Grow Zones adjacent to creeks will significantly reduce soil compaction, soil pH, and vegetation gaps and significantly increase soil moisture, vegetation structure, and canopy cover (shade).

Parks to Receive No Mow Zones:

  • Bartholomew Park
  • Bull Creek District Park
  • Givens Park Lady Bird Lake, downstream/east of I35
  • Commons Ford Park
  • Blunn Creek Greenbelt, upstream of Monroe
  • Dittmar Park
  • Buttermilk Greenbelt
  • Dottie Jordon Park
  • Boggy Creek Greenbelt
  • Gillis Park
  • Robert E. Lee tributary (Zilker park)
  • Tarrytown Park
  • North Star Greenbelt
  • Reed Park
  • Battle Bend
  • Shoal Greenbelt (shoal edge ct.)

Questions: Please contact Mateo Scoggins, WPD, 512-974-2550, email