Public Notice: Park or Golf Course?
It may be time for Hancock to get off the fence
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.