Public Notice: A Park Is a Terrible Thing to Waste
Re-creating Austin's open spaces
There may be ice on the ground today, but make no mistake – springtime is in the air. And in springtime, a young city's fancy turns to – parks.
The Parkland of the Week at City Hall is of course Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park, which could oh-so-easily become the Decker Lake Golf Course if only City Council could see its way clear to hand over the land for the next 90 years. This is a silly and probably illegal idea, of course – the previous Council came within a hair's-breadth of killing it as one of their final acts back in December – but now it returns to the new Council, with the public hearing having been closed back in the previous administration, the plan itself substantially changed, yet scheduled, as of now, for an up-or-down vote today.
I expect Council will punt it again, but the sensible thing to do would be to nix the current proposal just to clear the decks, and then ask the Open Space, Environment, and Sustainability committee to take up the very real task of creating an actual plan for the land, which has been lacking for decades. (Yes, there are public golf courses on the existing 45-year-old Master Plan, but there are also ball fields, a boat marina, and a youth camp, on land that has since become a power plant, so it's not exactly a functioning plan.)
Nearby residents are understandably frustrated at the longstanding neglect of the area (see "Public Notice: Something at Lake Long?" Dec. 12, 2014, and Robyn Ross' "Colony Park: Finding a Middle Way," Dec. 20, 2013), but indeed, not everything is better than nothing.
Meanwhile though, as if to rub salt in Decker Lake's wounds, look what's going on in other parks around town:
This Saturday is the 13th Annual "It's My Park Day" – the first Saturday of March, when thousands of volunteers work to improve parks and greenbelts across the city. This year's projects include two special celebrations: Volunteers will be painting and mulching at Dove Springs District Park from 9:30-11am, and celebrating an innovative and extensive new playscape area that's just been installed. And Ramsey Park (42nd & Burnet) will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony, 1-3pm, to show off the improvements realized under the grant-funded Ramsey Park Master Plan. The Austin Parks Foundation and the city Parks and Recreation Dept. are still courting volunteers; for info on that: www.austinparks.org/its-my-park-day.
Planners will present a final draft version of the Onion Creek Metropolitan Park Master Plan at one last public meeting, Thursday, March 12, 6:30-8:30pm at Widen Elementary, 5605 Nuckols Crossing Rd. PARD says "a new funding source creates an opportunity for long-term, ongoing maintenance to be used to build and maintain" the 555 acres of undeveloped parkland in southeast Travis County. For more info on the plan, see www.austintexas.gov/onioncreekpark.
Summer Camp Registration starts at 10am Saturday, March 7, for all of PARD's summer programs: mostly for children ages 5-12 years, but also some preschool and teen programs. PARD's online registration is brand new, and Summer Camp programs are filled on a first-come, first-served basis – so be prepared. Familiarize yourself with the online registration process in advance at www.austintexas.gov/parksonline.
The Largest Nonprofit Organic Plant Sale in Texas will take place this Saturday, March 7, at Sunshine Community Gardens, 4814 Sunshine (north of 45th, between Lamar and Burnet) – 30,000 hard-to-find spring vegetable and herb plants, mostly certified organic and grown by Gabriel Valley Farms in Georgetown. It's a fundraiser for Sunshine, the oldest community garden in Austin, and it would behoove you to arrive early: Minor Mishap Marching Band "will open the gates sharply" at 9am.
Action – and reaction – are starting to heat up regarding the MoPac South Environmental Study and MoPac Improvement Project – a project environmentalists see as a multi-tiered, toll-laned dagger into the heart of the Edwards Aquifer and Barton Springs Recharge Zone. The Travis County Commissioners Court discussed the study on Monday, there's an open house on the subject going on at O. Henry Middle School as we go to press Wednesday evening, and an online survey on the topic is open through March 9 at www.mopacsouth.com/voh – where you can also find much more info on the plan.
Capital Metro is currently taking public input on its planned June service changes. There are four public open houses this coming week, March 9-12, plus a webinar (Mon., March 9, noon; register now at www.bit.ly/192zyOY), a discussion forum (www.ideas.capmetro.org), and a public hearing (Wed., March 11, noon, in the Capital Metro Board Room, 2910 E. Fifth). See full info at www.capmetro.org/june2015.
CodeNEXT Working Groups conclude their initial meeting schedule this week: Infill, Compatibility, and Missing Middle Housing at 3-5pm Fri., March 6, and Obstacles for Small Business at 4-5pm Mon., March 9.