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City may keep some trails open 24/7

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The Austin City Council is considering a plan to keep some hike and bike trails open 24 hours a day which might cost the city millions of dollars.

Right now it is against city ordinance to be at any park from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. However, Council Member Chris Riley wants to change that policy and allow the usage of some trails 22/7.

Riley is spearheading a one year pilot project that would do away with the curfew at the hike and bike trail, the Shoal Creek Greenbelt Trail, and the Johnson Creek Trail.

The idea behind the plan is that the trails are a safer way to travel given the multiple bicycle accidents that have taken place on city streets in recent months.

Parks and Recreation Director Sara Hensley believes the program has merit.

"We understand the spirit of it and we support and believe the idea of being able to have these trails used for transportation purposes," Hensley said.

However, she believes more time should be given to consider the impacts such as more wear and tear on the trails and the cost of staffing overnight hours with ten additional people. The estimated cost of that would be $760,000.

Austin Police, however, believe it will cost their department much more to provide additional staff to monitor the trails.

In a memo to council members, Assistant City Manager Bert Lumbreras said APD would need two fully staffed shifts to patrol the area at a cost of $2.7 million.

The department would have to take a year and a half to hire and train those additional officers. In the meantime, APD would use overtime hours which would cost $3.1 million.

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