Susan Rankin departs The Trail Foundation

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Susan Rankin has parted ways with The Trail Foundation, the non-profit organization that works to maintain and improve the Butler Trail around Lady Bird Lake.

Rankin led the foundation for 10 years, and says she is most proud of her work spearheading the boardwalk project, which closed a gap in the 10-mile trail beneath the Interstate 35 bridge.

Rankin also led the foundation as it redeveloped trailheads, installed new restrooms and completed landscaping projects, including the Pfluger Circle. There, with the design expertise of Ten Eyck, the foundation transformed a barren space into a garden with native plants, sitting areas and living walls.

“The Trail Foundation board wanted to go in a new direction and a board has the right to set priorities,” Rankin said Wednesday.

The foundation commended Rankin’s work, saying in a statement that her leadership has been essential to making the trail a more diverse, shadier and safer place, and with the completion of the boardwalk, “a place where more Austinites than ever can gather and enjoy their city.”

“Susan’s personal commitment to ecological restoration and high design standards for the Foundation’s projects has left a lasting impression on the landscape so many enjoy,” the statement said.

The Trail Foundation was formed in 2003 to protect and enhance the trail around Lady Bird Lake. As the city has grown, pressure on the trail and other parks has increased, raising the need for non-profit organizations and public-private partnerships to help maintain and improve them.

“As Austin and usage of the trail continue to grow, it is even more important to continue to enhance the habitat so as to increase the beneficial health effects of exercising in a healthy green space,” Rankin said.

Rankin credited good working relationships with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, as well as the city’s watershed protection and public works departments, with the organization’s progress.

“Our successes at the trail have smoothed the way for more conservancies here; Austin is reaping the benefits of leveraging public and private dollars to the benefit of our parks,” she said.

Brian Ott, a past president of the foundation’s board of directors, will serve as interim executive director. Ott is a licensed landscape architect and former managing principal of the Austin office of TBG Partners.

Next up for the foundation? Construction of a wider bridge on the Butler Trail beneath Congress Avenue, on the north side of the river.

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