Austin Parks Foundation (APF) and Austin Parks and Recreation (PARD) have formed a partnership to actively lead the design and installation of an innovative playscape and nature pathways for Dove Springs District Park. This focused effort is the result of a St. David’s grant award to APF and with the assistance of the Natural Learning Initiative (NLI), the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), and local landscape architecture firm TBG Partners.
The custom playscape is designed to reinvigorate the community in active participation and involvement in the outdoor environment. The Dove Springs neighborhood has the highest rate of childhood obesity in Central Texas and this initiative is part of a larger intensive collaboration to spearhead physical fitness and healthy lifestyles in the community.
Originally built in the 1990s, the playscape had aged and become obsolete and unsafe by current standards. On June 18, 2014, the old playscape was demolished to make way for the new and improved play area.
- Site re-grading
- Utility and drainage improvements
- Accessibility enhancements
- Irrigation and planting improvements
- Pathway improvements
- Shrub thinning and tree planting
- Signage and way finding
- Site furnishings and amenities
The following is an excerpt from an interview with Austinite Ofelia Zapata, member of the Dove Springs District Park adopter group
“First and foremost I want to give thanks to Kurt Cadena-Mitchell, the Dove Springs Community Programs Coordinator for GO! Austin/VAMOS! Austin, who introduced our community group to the Austin Parks Foundation. That was the beginning of a whole new imagination of what we could do in our neighborhood. We had no idea we had any say in how we could design the parks. If you are in a neighborhood where there is a park you can organize residents and really make that park a place where the families and community can gather.”
“We have a neighborhood plan that was adopted in 2002—the southeast neighborhood plan—and all of it was about gangs and crime and vandalism, youth gangs, and negativity in the parks. In 2010 when I found out about the plan, those things were still happening. There wasn’t any organized effort to do something about it. People spent a whole lot of time putting this plan together, but there wasn’t anyone making sure anyone was following up.”
That’s when Ofelia stepped in. A natural-born leader, she is passionate about the Dove Springs community and empowering her family, friends, and neighbors to be a part of the change they want to see.
Ofelia is also a long-time member of Austin Interfaith—a non-partisan, multi-ethnic, multi-issue organization of 42 congregations, public schools, and unions who work together to address public issues that affect the well being of families and neighborhoods in our community.
In 2013, along with fellow community members, Ofelia officially adopted Dove Springs District Park, which enabled them to apply for a park project grant from the Austin Parks Foundation.
“At Austin Interfaith community organizing is about teaching others never do for others what they can do for themselves. It’s going to take a lot of people. It’s going to take a lot of people to make change. This is an opportunity for the community to begin to use their imagination about what the community can look like. When this playscape is unveiled I hope it’ll give a sense of hope and energy.
“People are exhausted after so many meetings waiting for things to happen. But now I tell them what’s happening and they realize it’s a process. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes patience taking people where they are and showing them this is an opportunity to grow and develop as leaders.”
The new play area will appeal to a wider range of youth than the old one and will most importantly be a safe structure. Kids from the Dove Springs neighborhood were even able to share ideas of what they wanted to see in the playscape and some were incorporated in the final design.
“Everybody I talk to about this new play area is excited. They want to know how it happened. It gives people a sense of knowing they can make change in their neighborhood. And hopefully it gets more people to step up and be a part of the change. The dove is a symbol of love and peace and that’s the community I’m trying to build. Working in parks I want to see more families out enjoying it and walking the trails. I want to see people spending more time here. That’s worth all the meetings.”
“This park will give the kids the joy and freedom to be kids.”
This October there will be a grand opening for the new playscape in Dove Springs District Park. The project will eventually be one part of a master planning effort for the park, which will include major renovations to the recreation center and other areas.