Located in South Austin, one side of the preserve borders William Cannon just east of Brodie. If you are attempting to enter from William Cannon you will rapidly find out that there is no easy way to get into the nature preserve. The main entrance is inside Longview Neighborhood Park (to the south of William Cannon) and therefore that side of the preserve gets considerably more traffic.
If you enter the preserve through the north side (as I did) you might possibly be the only person there. There is a lot of obvious animal activity in the area. A woodpecker made an appearance and two humming birds rushed by in a hurry. Cardinals were most present on my visit and each turn I took in the woods there seemed to be one fluttering by to get a look at me. There is evidence of deer in the area, and it is not uncommon for one to be seen either in the preserve or dead on the road. The meadows have appeared to recover from motorcycle traffic but it is obvious that there was some recent flooding.
Previously the preserve was open to both mountain biking and motorcycling which caused excessive erosion of the trails. Makeshift jumps were created in the meadows and at one time all resemblance of grass and wildflowers were nowhere to be seen. Currently the preserve is closed to all wheeled traffic and has since recovered remarkably in just a couple of years. Your opinion on the preserve however, may be determined by which side of it you live on.
Residents on the south side have easy access to the trails, all of which seem to be well managed. This side is also home to some local artists who have decorated the trails with metal and wood sculptures. Residents in this neighborhood undertook a daunting task this year of protecting the preserve from re-zoning. Code-Next is underway in the city of Austin and the preserve was due to be rezoned as PUD (planned unit development) instead of a city park. This means that there was a teeny tiny loophole that some administration in the future could build public housing, a school or recreation area on the land. It would have been up to the residents to constantly be vigilant to fight any future developments. Luckily they won their battle and it will be re-zoned as a park instead.
If you live on the north side of the preserve your view is starkly different. The very busy William Cannon has no crosswalks. Residents who live on the opposite side of the street must walk a huge distance to the nearest light to safely cross, or jaywalk over 4 lanes of rush hour traffic. Once you make it to the other side, you may be greeted with turned over shopping carts, trash, and overgrown grass. There is no sign to let you know that the land is open to the public, and no trail markers for entry. The easiest entrance is at the front of Jubilee church, but it is not visible from the street.
The land just adjacent to the Jubilee church on William Cannon is due to be sold. After contacting the realtor, the land is about 9 acres and is going for around 2.5 million dollars. It is still on the market but there are a few interested buyers. At the moment she did not know what the planned development will be but that it would be "low intensity" due to its location near the park. Part of me is excited that if housing is built, more residents on the north side will see the value of the land and use it. Part of me is skeptical that more residents is really what a preserve needs. The future designation of a park instead of a nature preserve means that (hopefully) more funds will be available for maintenance and repair.
Whichever side you choose to enter the preserve you will find a relaxing and enjoyable hike. Many thanks to the neighbors who helped keep this preserve protected. As development moves forward on the north side of the preserve lets hope that park use will be one of the major factors in its design.
Sources for this post
Neely, Christopher "The fate of Stephenson Nature Preserve", 2017, Community Impact, https://bit.ly/2JIgrAK : Accessed Jun 16 2018
Funari, Keely "Stephenson Nature Preserve is here to stay", 2017, Medium, https://bit.ly/2lbMA53 : Accessed Jun 15 2018
Austin Explorer, trail guide, https://bit.ly/2yeAtNO
Code Next, https://www.austintexas.gov/codenext