City pushes for flood prevention dollars, Onion Creek memorial

AUSTIN (KXAN) — When the city allocated a parkland along Onion Creek, it didn’t erase the painful memories that Frances Acuña still had.

“You see all this and you also think about the people who live here,” he told us as we drove through Onion Creek Metropolitan Park.

The land was once a neighborhood devastated by floods. Halloween floods along the creek killed four people in 2013 and three in 2015, and hundreds of homes were damaged in the process.

The town has spent millions buying homes; All but a few have now been demolished. Austin Watershed Protection told us it has purchased 815 properties along Lower Onion Creek and 130 homes in Upper Onion Creek.

Acuña talks to KXAN as they pass Onion Creek Metropolitan Park on Thursday (Photo/Tim Holcomb)

Acuña gets emotional when she thinks of a friend who has lost everything.

“She has a lot of anger and won’t let herself feel anything but anger for everything that happens,” she said in a tearful voice.

Council approved the decision Thursday is urging the city to build a memorial honoring the victims in Onion Creek Metropolitan Park. The mandate, brought in by Councilor Vanessa Fuentes of District 2, calls for Austinites to find money in the budget to make their homes “flood proof” in vulnerable areas. An example of doing this would be to upgrade homeowners’ doors and windows, as well as add more gutters or drainage ditches.

“Obviously, the city hasn’t done enough,” Fuentes said. “We’re looking at how we can better strengthen our homes to withstand a flood event.”

The resolution also calls on City Manager Spencer Cronk to raise funds to educate and train community members in emergency preparedness.

A memorial to Acuña would serve as a recognition for those who were displaced and still bear the trauma. He added that visitors to the park should know the history of the land.

“They don’t know what this land has,” Acuña told us. “He has a lot of pain.”

The city council is asking City Manager Spencer Cronk to come back in three months with funding proposals.

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