The Neighborhood Habitat Challenge is an annual contest organized by the Austin Parks and Recreation Department in conjunction with the National Wildlife Federation. The goal is to make Austin a more wildlife-friendly city. To date, Austin has more than 1,700 certified wildlife habitats in the city, according to the Wildlife Austin! website. Nationwide, there are more than 150,000 NWF certified habitats.

Here’s how you can make your little piece of Austin a part of it:

  1. Turn your yard into a wildlife-friendly habitat. There are four elements you need to transform your yard into a habitat: food, water, cover and places to raise young.  In addition, practice two sustainable gardening measures — such as maintaining a chemical-free lawn, planting native species and conserving water.
  2. Complete the Wildlife Habitat Certification form on the NWF website. You can also download and print the form. There is a $20 fee for certification, but pre-paid applications are available by sending an email to . A limited number of applications are available.

The three neighborhoods with the most new certifications by Nov. 14 win recognition from the City of Austin, as well as prizes. Prizes for past years have included neighborhood picnics, tree giveaways and wildlife workshops.

For more information about the program, check out the challenge guidelines and FAQs. For more details about how to get involved, email .


By Melissa Hawthorne

The Greenbelt is truly one of the bright spots of living here in Austin. After the hustle of the week, I make time to go wander in the Greenbelt. I see some other folks wandering, as well, and wonder how many people here in the neighborhood take advantage of this respite. If it’s been awhile since you’ve enjoyed this gem in your backyard, now is a good time to go. The maps at the bottom of the page can give you a better idea of where the best access points are.

Depending on your skill level, there are several entrances you could choose to enter the Greenbelt. No matter which access point you use they all lead to the creek. If you are looking for a nice wide “main” trail — really wide and level — take the Greenbelt access through Zilker on the south side of Barton Springs Pool or the Spyglass entrance (from the Mopac side), which is actually across from the Homedale entrance.

The 360 access point is also fairly simple to navigate and, when you get down into the Greenbelt, you can go either south or north. Going south takes you toward the Wilderness Park, a developed trail not quite as large as the Zilker entrance. Going north toward Gus Fruh is stunning in its own way. The Gus Fruh entrance is definitely one of my favorites.

The Barton Hills access point, on Homedale, is a little more challenging, but once you’re there it’s absolutely exquisite. Staying on the neighborhood side on Homedale and Gus Fruh, the trail kind of dead ends; however, since the creek is not flowing now due to drought, you can easily cross to the other side of the creek to get to the “main” trail.

When the water is flowing, Homedale has the “rapids” and “falls” that kayakers love to navigate, as well as a small swimming “pool” beside the rapids, and Gus Fruh has the large swimming hole that families and dogs share. The 360 area has climbing walls just the other side of the creek. Climbing walls can also be found between Gus Fruh and Spyglass on the main trail across the creek from our neighborhood entry trail.


The Barton Hills Neighborhood Association Neighborhood Watch program was featured in a front page story in the Austin American-Statesman today, complete with a color photo of Neighborhood Watch chairman John Luther and several volunteers. The story recognizes the efforts of the Neighborhood Watch program in our community and points out the significant reduction in several categories of crime since its inception.

You can check out the story at the Statesman site online or view this PDF version if the online version has been archived.

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