4,000 Volunteers Make It Personal With Public Lands on It’s My Park Day

Austin Parks Foundation’s largest citywide volunteer effort tackles 110 park projects

Amber Ahmed (l) and Gi Ha at Festival Beach Food Forest (Photo by Sofia Tafich)

Not even a cold, cloudy day with some rain prevented Austinites from waking up early to volunteer and care for parks and greenbelts all over the city on March 7 for It's My Park Day.

Created and funded by Austin Parks Foundation, the event happens twice a year and is the foundation's biggest city-wide volunteer event. This edition was the largest yet – out of the 200 parks in Austin, 110 had projects, and roughly 4,000 volunteers participated, compared to last year's 3,000.

"It's My Park Day is just really a magical day in the city of Austin," says Jayna Burgdorf, CFO of Austin Parks Foundation. "Thousands of people across the city are at their local park making a difference, making it look better, getting to know their neighbors, and just building community."

Todd Moon has fiercely protected and fostered Ninth Street BMX Park since its origins 25 years ago. Today, the park is internationally known in the world of BMX. Hand-built by volunteers, it houses some of the oldest BMX bike jumps in the country and has participated in It's My Park Day for more than four years.

"You get random volunteers that come out here and help out," Moon says. "It's really cool to see other parts of the community that care about this place that don't even ride bikes."

As the chair of Ninth Street BMX, Moon instructed volunteers on planting, cleaning, and beautifying the park during the event. Among them was 17-year-old event first-timer Jackson Collins, who loves skating and BMX and volunteered with his group of friends, and 74-year-old Karen Miller, who says she always participates in It's My Park Day.

To the south of town neighboring Rainey Street at the Festival Beach Food Forest, over 80 volunteers were busy mulching, developing pathways, harvesting, trimming, and planting trees.

Jodi Lane is one of the co-founders of the food forest, which is deemed "everybody's land." It can be accessed by anyone at any time, and according to Lane, "It's one of maybe only five or six in the country on public park land."

"The food forest is an experiment," Lane says. "Can we plant over 100 fruit and nut trees, edible ground covers ... and can we have it free for the taking and make it work?"

At Festival Beach Food Forest, It's My Park Day is more than just volunteer garden work. The food that gets harvested is taken to the RBJ Center food pantry, and there's also a huge potluck for the project volunteers and the seniors at the center. Feeding a total of 150 people, the post-gardening food festivities were accompanied by live music in an environment where people got to meet, volunteer, eat together, and forget their mobile phones.

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It's My Park Day, Austin Parks Foundation, Todd Moon, Ninth Street BMX Park, Jackson Collins, Karen Miller, Festival Beach Food Forest, Jodi Lane

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