The Austin Parks and Recreation Department is forming a plan for the future of the city’s parks through 2028, the department’s 100th anniversary, and area residents are encouraged to have a say, the department’s acting Director Kimberly McNeely said.
“The goal is to provide a guide for future growth of the department and also to respond to what our community says is important for parks, trails, programs and preservation,” she said.
The public input process, which began with a series of meetings in November and continues May 2-4, will culminate in the Austin Parks & Recreation Long Range Plan, a document with hundreds of pages of information about what goals the city will keep in mind while developing and working on parks and recreation-related projects for the next 10 years, McNeely said.
North Austin resident Joan Ivy, who helped coordinate with the city and her neighbors to form Alderbrook Pocket Park, said she hopes the long-range plan will include goals for making communication with the parks department more streamlined so that areas of the city with high need for green space, such as hers, can receive more support.
“It’s brought some of the neighbors together,”Ivy said. “I’ve met people who I’m not sure I would have met any other way. As soon as we put in the trail and the sidewalk, the next day people were walking on the trail with their dogs.”
The last long-range plan was published in 2010 and included goals such as making current and future parks more environmentally sustainable, said Kimberly McKnight, the department’s program manager for the long-range plan. Projects in North and Northwest Austin included the creation of Bull Creek District Park’s master plan, the creation of Copperfield Park on Yager Lane, and improvements to the Shoal Creek and Northern Walnut Creek Trails.
The Austin Strategic Mobility Plan, the Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint and 2040 citywide comprehensive plan Imagine Austin all are taken into consideration in the development of the long-range plan as well.
The community engagement process for the long-range plan involves public input meetings, focus groups and pop-up events throughout the city.
At each meeting community members are presented with demographic and population data as well as some of the goals the parks department hopes to abide by, such as a 2016 directive from City Council that parkland should be within a quarter mile of all residents in the urban core and a half mile for residents outside of it.
While community contribution is an important aspect of the plan, demographic reports and other studies of the city also help guide efforts in areas of town where residents may have less availability to participate in meetings, McKnight said.
“Community input is just one piece,” she said. “But I think it’s really important to note that if we did everything solely on community input then it would be a case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease every time.”