The Legacy of Janet Fish

January 8, 2021  | By Shoal Creek Conservancy

Photo from Dignity Memorial

We hear lots of names when we talk about Austin’s history. There’s Mirabeau Lamar who moved the capital of Texas to Waterloo near the banks of Shoal Creek in Downtown Austin. There’s Governor Pease, who donated the land along Shoal Creek which would become Austin’s first public park. Then there’s one name that you may not have heard: Janet Fish.

Janet Fish, the daughter of Walter E. Long, was raised along Shoal Creek in the 1920s and 30s. As an adult, Janet thought that the old paths along Shoal Creek where she grew up playing and riding her horse should be extended, improved, and made available for more people to access. Janet had a vision, and she made it happen. When given money by her husband to buy a new car, she instead hired a bulldozer to come and clear new sections of the trail. She reached out to neighbors to pitch in and recruited local kids to maintain and monitor the trail. She even deputized the kids to report bad behavior – which proved to be a successful technique.

All in all, Janet was responsible for formalizing the trail as we know it today between 19th Street and the “Ramble and Scramble,” as she called it, between 29th and 31st Streets. The Shoal Creek Trail was Austin’s first hike and bike trail and a leading example of a linear park system. It’s gone on to be an example of innovative urban greenspace that has been replicated across the country.

In her honor, the Janet Fish Pedestrian Bridge just south of 29th Street and the accompanying memorial plaque were constructed in 2006.

Today Shoal Creek Conservancy and caring community members continue Janet Fish’s legacy of extending and improving access to the Shoal Creek Trail beyond its original boundaries, improving water quality and habitat along the creek and programming this beautiful space to welcome Austinites from all parts of the city. We are able to continue the decades-long work along Shoal Creek with support from our community.