Grant projects over the years have helped improve migratory bird habitats
Each year, migratory bird species in Austin fly south for the winter, seeking warmer temperatures. Our very own mascot, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, is one of the many species that participates. Also included, the famous Mexican Free-tailed bats, which flock from under the Congress bridge.
Just like ourselves, these birds call Austin home, even if it’s only for part of the year. Improving green spaces helps all residents of Austin, migratory birds included. Over the years, Austin Parks Foundation has supported many projects that have resulted in improved wildlife habitats. Check out a few of them:
City Council and key city leaders want to hear from you about your thoughts and priorities for the city budget! New this year to the budget development process are town halls in each district attended by that district’s City Council Member, new City Manager Spencer Cronk, and Deputy Chief Finance Officer Ed Van Eenoo.
We know that parks are a critical part of our urban infrastructure, and have tremendous health, environmental, economic, and educational benefits as well. Unfortunately, Austin’s parks and trails are severely underfunded – PARD has $700MM in backlogged capital projects, and the list of projects and maintenance deferred for lack of funds grows every year. These town halls are a great opportunity to share directly with your Council Member and city leadership that parks should be a funding priority in Austin. Elected officials and staff say that constituent feedback is crucial to their decision-making – please join APF as we call on City
Council and city leadership to make our parks a priority!
For the last 337 days, Austin’s green spaces have been cleaner than ever before. That’s because Julie Sondecker, creator of Instagram’s @365DaysofHiking, has been picking up trash in parks and on trails every single day since May 30, 2017. During her daily outings, she fills her signature blue mesh bag, artfully arranges the trash in a beautiful spot, takes a photo, then shares it online.
“Part of my plan was always to highlight what doesn’t belong here,” Sondecker said. “I wanted the images to look Instagram-worthy, but by juxtaposing something really gross in front of something really pretty—it hammers my point home even more.”
Sondecker was especially eager for this spring’s wildflower season to begin because she knew the photos would hit Texans right in the heart. “Texans are proud of their bluebonnets,” she said. “And to put a big pile of trash in the middle of it…that definitely highlights the problem. It makes people think, ‘Is this where you want to take family photos? Is this what you’re proud of?’”
A native Texan herself, Sondecker grew up in Mansfield and moved to Austin in 2009 to attend the University of Texas. She studied public relations and spent much of her free time hiking on the Barton Creek Greenbelt as a way to “escape the madness and decompress.”
Today she works full-time in the public relations world, but she still manages to get outside daily for fresh air, and of course to pick up trash.
Sondecker originally planned to collect trash for 100 consecutive days, thinking that would be both manageable and impactful. But before she even began, she decided that if she could do 100 days, she could do 365. “I immediately upped the ante on myself,” she said.
The daily project has required considerable effort. Some days it takes 50 photos to get one perfect image. Some days it feels like a chore.
“When you’re doing it every day, you have to get creative with the when and how and where of it,” she said. “I’ve picked up trash downtown after work wearing wedges. You gotta do what you gotta do.”
Sondecker’s main motivation comes from knowing that there’s trash out there, and if she doesn’t pick it up nobody else will. Thanks to her work, though, she’s inspiring many more Austinites to help change that story.
You, too, can be a part of Sondecker’s story! Wednesday, May 30, 2018, marks Sondecker’s official 365th day, and Austin Parks Foundation is helping her celebrate a few days later by hosting a Saturday hike/clean combo at the trail that started it all. Everyone is welcome! Meet at the Barton Creek Greenbelt’s 360 Access Point on Saturday, June 2, 2018, from 9:00am to 12:00pm.
June 2nd also happens to be National Trails Day, and we can’t think of a better way to honor both events. Hope to see you there! For details and to register, click here, and be sure to check out Julie’s instagram account here.
People Plus Parks is a series featuring the people behind the work we’re doing in Austin’s parks. Check out the “People + Parks” category for more.
Welcome to our 100th Park Adopter, Wooldridge School Park!
With the addition of Wooldridge School Park, Austin Parks Foundation reached a huge milestone: our 100th park adopter! Wooldridge School Park, located in North Austin, sits adjacent to Wooldridge Elementary School. Other nearby parks include Quail Creek Neighborhood Park, Ron Rigsby Pocket Park and Payton Gin Pocket Park. All of which are also adopted!
John and Cynthia filling in the last few spaces on the Adopt-A-Park goal thermometer
Last summer, our programs team set out to reach a goal of 100 Adopt-A-Park groups. With a special focus on the city’s historically underserved and parkland deficient neighborhoods, we’re proud to have reached that goal and then some!
Every one of our park adopter groups help APF to continue our mission of improving and maintaining Austin’s parkland. From It’s My Park Day to monthly volunteer work days, park adopters help us and the City of Austin’s Parks & Recreation Department to improve parks all over the city.
Why Be a Park Adopter?
In addition to being key stakeholders in the future of these neighborhood parks, there are lots of perks that come with being a park adopter. Access to our tools, educational opportunities such as the Adopt-A-Park summit, our design services program and grant opportunities, just to name a few.
The Adopt-A-Park program is focused on connecting communities to their neighborhood and local parks. Through a collaboration with Austin Parks and Recreation Department, the program creates a network of people around Austin that are motivated to improve and advocate for their parks.
Congrats to the new adopters and our programs team for reaching this milestone. And a HUGE thank you to each and every one of our Adopt-A-Park groups for taking a leadership role in making their parks better for our community!
If you, your neighborhood group, co-workers or friends are thinking of adopting a park, contact us! We can give you all the details about adopting your park, or connect you with an existing group. Check out our Adopt-A-Park page for more information.
To slow down the hectic pace of daily life, step outside. Breathe in the morning air, watch the sunrise or set, feel the breeze on your face, watch the rainfall. People need to get outdoors and be a part of nature to reset the day and ease the mind. Living in Austin with so many outdoor wonders to visit and commune with, it’s easy to step outside and unwind.
There are many healthful benefits to going outside. Even just by going for a daily walk is great exercise even if it’s not regimented. Or, when we face daily stresses, going for a relaxing walk or jog can help clear the mind. Believe it or not, it can boost both your creativity and your focus just by breathing in some fresh air. When you spend time outdoors, for even as little as ten minutes, it can improve your mood and overall disposition.
What to do?
One of the perks that current residents love and why people often move to Austin, is for the green scenery. With all the beautiful areas in Austin, here are some extra relaxing parks to enjoy.
Zilker Metropolitan Park
The gem of downtown Austin and home to Barton Springs, a large playscape, the Zilker Eagle train ride, plus, over four hundred acres of woodlands and sports fields. Zilker Park is nestled against Lady Bird Lake on one side and is interlaced with bike and hiking trails. Its spring-fed pool has a gravel bottom with naturally clear water which stays at 69 degrees all year. The miniature train ride which goes around the park the kids and grandkids will enjoy riding. The most significant events include hosting Austin City Limits, Blues on the Green, and numerous music, food, and family friendly festivals.
Mount Bonnell Park
This park is a beautiful place to spend the day and relax on the weekend, or just walk in during the week. It has a breathtaking view from the peak to admire. There are steps that let you enjoy a walk to the top. However, if you have trouble with steps, then park in the parking lot at the north end. There’s a path there that will take you around the steps and get you to the peak easier.
This is an interesting park to visit because it has walking trails through hills and forests; and its also part garden. There are peacocks roaming all through the gardens, including exotic white ones. There are places for to enjoy picnics and it’s a natural place in the heart of Austin to have a relaxing moment and to take a stroll.
Barton Creek Greenbelt
A local favorite, also referred to as just the Greenbelt, this hiking and swimming hot spot is perfect for your wellness fix. With numerous entrances and exits you can be sure to find either very populated spots or empty sanctuaries along the trails. Sitting along the creek with relaxing sounds of water and nature nesseling will be sure to ease any stressful tension.
With mental wellness benefits, there are also additional health benefits that come with being outside. When you’re out in the sunshine, it will increase your Vitamin D levels. This is important because when your levels are increased, this can help prevent chronic diseases. Plus, Vitamin D also helps fight colds, flu, and infections. With proper Vitamin D levels, the body better regulates the immune system.
Another benefit of spending time outdoors is called grounding. This is when you take off your shoes and put your bare feet on the ground, touching the earth. The flow of energy from your body to the earth will allow negative electrons to be absorbed through the soles of your feet. By walking barefoot at times, it can reduce inflammation, improve your sleep, relieve pain and enhance well-being to just name a few positive effects.
Grounding can also help to calm the sympathetic nervous system and that supports the variability of your heart rate. When your heart rate is supported then it balances your autonomic nervous system. When all these are working properly, then your entire body and its functions are improved.
There are so many reasons to go outside and enjoy nature–what are you waiting for?
Jake Hill is a blogger and marketing wizard for LawnStarter, an Austin-based company connecting homeowners with lawn care professionals through an online and mobile platform.
If you were planning an expansive, open-ended trip to the other side of the globe, how would you spend your last days at home? Tying up loose ends? Buying supplies? Saying goodbye to friends? Triple-checking your passport and flight details?
If you were Eric Nichols you would be raising money for a treasured hometown organization. This past January, two weeks before he would leave the country for an undetermined time, Nichols created a Facebook fundraiser to benefit Austin Parks Foundation and all the parks he loves.
“My birthday is also in January, and I wanted to raise money in celebration of it,” he said. “When I considered the things that were most important to me I was thinking about everything I’ve enjoyed in Austin. So much of my time has been spent outdoors and at the parks. I’ve only lived in the city for 3.5 years, but I do like to say that Austin shaped me more than any other place. I wanted to give back to something that helped me grow so much.”
Nichols also knew that choosing APF as a beneficiary would resonate with his friends. He set a fundraising goal of $200 and ultimately raised more than $500. “It was so easy to create,” he said. “Just a couple clicks and it was up.”
“The response from friends and family was great,” he said. “It inspired me to make giving back a regular part of my life. Selfishly it’s just a good feeling knowing you did something for an organization, but it’s also really empowering to make a difference. I definitely feel motivated to keep giving back to the communities I love.”
Raised in Atlanta and Dallas, Nichols came to Austin to study advertising at the University of Texas. He spent his free time outdoors, particularly at green spaces like Shoal Creek, Pease Park and Zilker Park. Nichols graduated early so he could turn what would have been his final spring semester into a global adventure/DIY study abroad program.
Nichols bought a one-way ticket to Asia—first visiting Singapore, then Vietnam and currently Thailand.
“It started as a semester-long trip, but now I want it to last as long as possible. Maybe a year or more.”
Two months into the trip he already feels like a changed person.
“It’s been so interesting to see how people live in these other countries. I’ve thought about how they are giving me so much, and I’m not giving them the same in return. Right now I’m traveling Asia for fun and for my own benefit, but I definitely want to come back and do more work that will help the community in some way.”
One lesson he’s learned from his travels ties back to his affection for hometown parks.
“When I’m traveling, my favorite way to develop a personal connection to a city is to spend time walking through it. Whenever I get to a new place I walk through the city, sometimes without a map. I find that when I get to a park, I can take a moment to let it sink in and absorb everything. Parks are always a good space to really appreciate what you’re surrounded by.”
People Plus Parks is a series featuring the people behind the work we’re doing in Austin’s parks. Check out the “People + Parks” category for more.
If you’d like to create a fundraiser like Eric, Facebook makes it simple! Your friends and family can give in honor of your birthday, a pet’s birthday, an anniversary, or just because. Fundraisers like Eric’s help APF continue to provide access to safe, healthy parks for every Austinite, and every bit helps!
Check out the fundraisers section of Facebook and follow the instructions to choose APF as your charity beneficiary. Once it’s all set up you can share the fundraiser with your Facebook friends, and let them know why parks are important to YOU!
Check out our GivePulse page for all of our volunteer events!
Austin Give 5
In honor of Earth Day, participating local businesses dedicate 5% of their profits on April 20th to nine local non profits, including APF. Check out the full list here.
Whole Foods Market Giveback
We are partnering with Whole Foods Market for another day of giving back. On April 19th, 5% of sales from all 5 Whole Foods Austin Locations will go towards Austin Parks Foundation and The Trail Foundation.
Aquatic native plant life helps improve Barton Spring’s ecosystem
March 22nd marks World Water Day, so we are highlighting a project at Barton Springs Pool that was partially funded by our grants program. A 2016 community grant went towards the purchase of native aquatic plants. These native plants play a vital role in Barton Spring’s ecosystem, and the lives of the many species that call Barton Springs home, including the Barton Springs salamander.
Flooding that occurred in the fall of 2015 resulted in the native plant life being ripped from it’s roots. These plants are essential for holding down soil and controlling algae growth. Without native plant life, the endangered Barton Springs Salamander will not thrive. The salamander, which lives only in Barton Springs, needs clean and clear water in order to survive.
In addition to the 2016 community grant, Barton Springs Pool also received a neighborhood grant from APF in 2016. This grant helped purchase tools needed to clean the pool. Cleaning the pool is also an essential part of maintaining a healthy ecosystem.
Keeping Barton Springs water clean is helpful to all; the animals that call it home as well as the countless people that visit every year. Check out our friends at Barton Springs Conservancy and Save Our Springs to learn even more!
Donate to us to see more projects like this in parks around Austin!
Our tagline is people + parks, and we take that to heart. We know the people we work with, both inside and outside the office, are what make this organization successful, and we’re proud of the team we’ve put together. Each of us is committed to making Austin’s parks, trails and green spaces great for each and every Austinite. Read up on this month’s featured APF staff member, and stay tuned for more throughout the year!
Name: Kathleen Mannello
Community Engagement Manager
What She Does:
Kathleen heads up It’s My Park Day, the Adopt-A-Park program and summit, as well as our community outreach.
Time at APF:
Dottie Jordan on the east side in University Hills. It’s my neighborhood park, so I go there a lot with my family, but it’s also a hidden gem in Austin. There’s beautiful, mature trees, running trails, shaded swimming pools and play scapes, tennis courts, creek beaches to explore, tons of wildlife, plus an awesome rec center and community garden maintained by folks in the neighborhood.
Favorite thing about being on the APF Staff:
Austin Parks Foundation promotes health, beauty and positive change in every part of the city. Because we are committed to parks throughout the entire city of Austin, we can make an impact, even in small ways, with impressive reach.
Favorite park memory:
The times I’ve taken each of my children to the park for the first time are my favorite memories. Seeing the joy on their faces during their first swing ride or watching them explore trees, rocks and plants with a new kind of independence were truly priceless experiences.
I once appeared on HGTV’s Curb Appeal! I painted a mural on the side of a historic brownstone in Washington, DC, and now I know for sure that being a television personality is not my calling.
Design Services is the newest step towards improving Austin’s green space
According to Trust for Public Land’s Parkscore, Austin ranks only 46th out of the 100 largest cities in the U.S. There are so many ways to improve our parks, whether it’s adding benches or building a playscape. But, these improvements take a lot of planning before they can come to life. Austin Parks Foundation’s newest program, Park Design Services, is a great way for Adopt-A-Park groups to turn an idea into reality.
Led by a professional Landscape Architect, this master planning process guides Adopt-A-Parks groups through envisioning and creating an official master plan.
For many groups, the first step to park improvement starts with a master plan. A master plan provides a cohesive vision of what a park can turn into. This includes planned out amenities and a guideline on moving forward. The master plan will be the result of a collaboration between park adopter groups, communities, Austin Parks and Recreation Department, and our Park Developer, Katie Robillard.
Interested in seeing examples of master plans? Check out this one for Brownie Neighborhood Park, which is still in progress, or this one for Pease Park.