Public Notice: Park or Golf Course?

It may be time for Hancock to get off the fence

Public Notice: Park or Golf Course?

Hancock Golf Course has been a problem child for the city Parks and Recreation Department's Golf Division for years now. They're proud of its historic legacy and natural setting in the center of town, but as a nine-hole course, kinda scruffy, and lacking modern amenities, it's a perpetual money loser, and thus a perpetual problem for a division that as an enterprise fund is expected to pay its own way, and even show a profit for the city. So PARD has floated various plans through the years for upgrading, rebuilding, and/or privatizing the operations and the site itself (which is dedicated parkland, and thus has pretty strict limits on its use).

On Feb. 29, PARD held a public meeting to present its most recent efforts, a study from the National Golf Foundation that laid out three options: turn the site into a passive park; make a substantial investment to create a "modern golf learning center"; or create a public- private partnership to achieve the same end. PARD staff insisted they were presenting all three options impartially, but observers perceived a heavy thumb on the scale in favor of the public-private option – which smacked of overdevelopment and loss of public access to neighbors who use parts of the site as a park and running trail. But a lot has happened since Febru­ary, especially regarding public spaces, so it's timely that PARD is coming back with the next round of (virtual) community meetings to present feedback from February and next steps, including a request for proposals process. Those will be Oct. 26 and Oct. 29 (details at www.publicinput.com/hancockmeeting2), but a newly formed group has jumped the gun on that: the Hancock Conservancy, launched just this week, "dedicated to turning Austin's ailing Hancock Golf Course into a public park" – i.e., the first and somewhat overlooked of PARD's three options. There's an outline of their plan, and a petition to support it, at www.hancockconservancy.org, and they'll be talking about it at the Hancock Neighbor­hood Association meeting next Wednesday, Oct. 21, where they say, "Members of the neighborhood association will vote on a resolution calling for dividing the property evenly between golf and parkland." Expect to hear more soon.


The 34th annual AIA Austin Homes Tour is this Fri.-Mon., Oct. 16-19 – virtual, of course – and the architects' group is promising "unique perspectives and insights through videos, photography, 360-degree walk-throughs, and live Q&A sessions" with the owners and designers of their nine selected homes – including video tours with music written for each house! Tickets are $30-$85 at www.aiaaustinhomestour.com.


Help provide Hope. HopeFest – "Austin's largest community-based resource fair for low-income families" – annually provides aid for some 4,000 low-­income families: info and referrals, but also direct aid including food, clothing, and medical services. This year's edition will be a drive-through event, Sat., Oct 24 at Nelson Field (next to Northeast High School), and organizers at Austin Voices for Education & Youth need volunteers to make it work. Shifts are from 7:30-11:30am or 11am-3pm, with all health protocols strictly enforced. Find info and a volunteer form at www.austinvoices.org.

Send gossip, dirt, innuendo, rumors, and other useful grist to nbarbaro@austinchronicle.com.

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