This year Austin Parks Foundation (APF) turned 25, and it was our best year yet! From the year’s first completed grant to our end of year plans, 2017 was one for the books. But we’re not looking to stop now. Our history has shown continued hard work and persistence so that our parks get the attention they deserve. Since 1992, Austin Parks Foundation (APF) has been devoted to improving parks, trails and green spaces all over the city. In fact, from the very beginning, APF has been rooted in community initiated action, and today, we want to celebrate everything we’ve accomplished with your support. Here is a quick look at the highlights of 2017 (Make sure to click on the title of each highlight for more info!)
We saw it appropriate to begin these highlights by mentioning the sponsor of our 25th anniversary: Clean Scapes! They have become devoted collaborators and supporters of APF and are one of our most generous corporate sponsors. This year alone they have donated $25,000 to celebrate our 25 years of work for the Austin community. This is our largest sponsorship to date! Clean Scapes has a history of working on iconic Austin parks such as Zilker and Vic Mathias Auditorium Shores. Their work on the 2015 Auditorium Shores renovation even garnered them an Urban Land Institute Impact Award. The company was also in charge of rebuilding downtown’s Republic Square Park which was completed late this past summer. Our partnership with Clean Scapes allows us to bring much needed improvements and maintenance to the city’s parks, and has helped us accomplish many of the highlights in this blog. We are so thankful for their hard work and generosity!
We started off the year strong with our first completed project of the year: a brand new shade structure at Dick Nichols District Park! Seeing the need for an outdoor play space with a shield from the hot Texas sun, Friends of Dick Nichols endeavored to install a shade structure that would allow families to enjoy the playground year round and increase the usability of the park’s assets. With a Community Grant of $50,000, Friends of Dick Nichols were able to install the structure over the main play area at this highly-trafficked park. This year alone APF has seen 29 Grant Projects completed by neighborhood groups all over the city.
This year brought another huge first for us. We were able to present our biggest ACL Musical Festival Impact Grant to St. John Park. Though awarded in 2016, we didn’t get the chance to surprise these dedicated park stewards until 2017! Totalling $100,000, the funds are supporting the redevelopment of this neighborhood park in the St. John area. Austin Parks Foundation recently added the Impact Grant to allow for a variety of large-scale park improvements throughout the Austin community. The $100,000 gift is awarded once a year to one Adopt-a-Park group looking to create a master plan, or embark on significant capital improvements in their designated park.
Along with our 25th anniversary, we also celebrated the 100th anniversary of Austin’s beloved Zilker Park! In February we created a coalition of organizations doing work in and around Zilker to ensure that our crown jewel is enjoyed by Austinites and visitors alike for generations to come. From the great lawn to Barton Springs Pool, Zilker Hillside Theatre to the Nature and Science Center, the playground to the Sunshine Camps, the park is home to so much that makes Austin, Austin. To celebrate Zilker’s centennial, we made all amenities FREE at Zilker Park on April 4th. This included Barton Springs Pool, Parking in Zilker, Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum, Zilker Botanical Garden, and the Zilker Zephyr. This day was also the debut of the Zilker 100 Sculpture on the Great Lawn. Throughout the year we provided opportunities to engage visitors in Zilker Park and to celebrate this historic milestone. Our end of year Movie Night at the Trail of Lights will be our last hoorah of the year for Zilker Park. Join us December 19 at 8pm for a screening of Elf and celebrate 100 years of Zilker Park!
Here’s a quick look at the numbers for our Spring 2017 It’s My Park Day:
About 3,600 volunteers came together to show some TLC to our parks. A total of 88 parks were worked on. We had 110 different park projects. With all our volunteers, we had 10,800 hours of total work. This represented $254,448 in park labor! As our largest It’s My Park Day yet, we’d like to give a big thank you to each of the 3,600 volunteers and project leaders that helped us care for our parks, trails and green spaces. You are the backbone of our work!
For the 40th running, APF was named the beneficiary of the Statesman Capitol 10K. The Cap10K is the largest 10K race in Texas and one of the top 10 in the nation. Starting in 1978 with 3,400 participants the race has grown to over 21,000! APF received $1 from every Cap10K registration and the Statesman matched donations up to $10,000. We are proud to say that the Cap10K raised more than $40,000 to go toward our work for Austin’s parks. Such financial support ensures our growing city has safe, beautiful and high-quality green spaces today and for generations to come.
This year we also partnered with The Trail Foundation (TTF) and the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) to fund a collaborative planning study for the future of Seaholm Waterfront, the historic Seaholm Intake structure and its surrounding parkland. Together, we finished the planning and public input phase, and soon Studio Gang will present the findings to develop a world class public facility that will respect the historic significance of the Seaholm Intake structure. Visit seaholmwaterfront.org for more info.
Our first ever Capital Campaign raised over $5.8 million ($2.5 million in public funds) to renovate, reopen and endow Republic Square. We are proud to have played a part in the renovation of Republic Square, a park with rich history. In fact, Republic Square was one of four original public parks in Austin. It was dedicated in the Waller Plan as public green space in 1829, the year Austin was founded, and served as the venue where each of Austin’s new plots of land were auctioned. In partnership with the Downtown Austin Alliance and the City of Austin, we have revitalized this important urban park and given it back its place among Austin’s most treasured green spaces.
For our 25th anniversary, we showed movie classics from 1992 for one of our longest running programs, Movies in the Park. Movies this year included Sister Act, The Mighty Ducks, Wayne’s World, Death Becomes Her, and Aladdin. We also screened Aladdin in Spanish at Dove Springs, making it the first movie we’ve ever screened in Spanish! We were also excited to add new parks to our repertoire, helping to activate and advocate for them throughout the Austin community. Our final Movies in the Park film screening will be the Christmas classic, Elf at the Trail of Lights! We are proud to provide events like this to promote and advocate for our beloved parks.
This year, APF took on a focused and strategic advocacy campaign to strengthen the city’s budget for public green space. Advocacy efforts lead by APF and supported by Austin’s environmental non-profits, as well as neighbors and park lovers, helped get $3.4 million for parks in our city’s funding priorities. From the approved park amendments included in the final city budget, there was much to celebrate including:
- $100,000 was given for Americans with Disabilities Act improvements at playgrounds
- $165,000 was set aside in Capital Improvement Program funding to purchase three new vehicles for senior transportation to recreational activities
- $50,000 was given to programming at the George Washington Carver Cultural Center
- $17,500 was approved for the Cities Connecting Children to Nature Program
We would like to thank all of our supporters who emailed, called, and visited council members to advocate on behalf of our beloved parks. It is because of your dedication that this much-needed funding was secured. Special thanks goes out to the park adopters and advocates who spent late nights at City Hall in order to speak directly to City Council. Your testimony was invaluable!
Party for the Parks
Party for the Parks 2017 was our best party yet! Our annual event raised over $160,000 which will go directly into improving and maintaining the places you love the most – our parks! We would like to thank everyone who sponsored, attended, participated and volunteered. With your help, we are able to do so much more for our parks. In addition to a successful evening of fundraising, a very rare thing happened: we had APF’s Founders all in the same room for the first time in years thanks to the dedication and excellent leadership of Beverly Griffith. What a night!
2017 also marked 12 years of partnership with Austin City Limits Music Festival, and man has it been an amazing ride! More than $26 million has been generated through our 12-year partnership for our local park system. Together we have funded hundreds of additional park improvement projects across the city.
And this year, for the first time ever, APF became the presenting partner of ACL’s signature greening program – Rock & Recycle! When you throw an outdoor party as big as ACL Fest, there’s more to think about than just putting on an amazing rock show. The Rock and Recycle Program encouraged festival attendees to pick up a bag of recyclables from the grounds in exchange for an exclusive artist-designed T-shirt in partnership with HOPE Events and Industry Print Shop. In total, we collected 3,291 bags of recyclables and raised $16,455 for APF’s Recycling in Parks Initiative! We are excited for all the great things this partnership will accomplish for our parks, trails and green spaces.
Once again, we were blown away by all of you who gave your time and effort to our Fall It’s My Park Day! In only it’s second year, this city-wide day of volunteerism broke the previous records for volunteer turnout. With nearly 5,000 hours of volunteer work, IMPD Fall represents an investment of $125,750 into parks! Special recognition goes out to all of the dedicated project leaders and volunteers that made it possible.
One of our goals for this year was to reach 100 park adopters for our Adopt-A-Park Program – and reach it we did! The aim of this program is to build a sense of community pride and ownership around every neighborhood park. It is a collaborative partnership between the Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) and Austin Parks Foundation to build community and stewardship neighborhood parks throughout Austin. Throughout the years we have encouraged individuals and communities to come together for the parks they love, and we are proud to say that this year we reached our goal. 100 Adopt-A-Park groups have joined us in caring for neighborhood parks all over the city. We would like to give a very special thank you to all our park adopters. Your work and partnership encourages us to do even more for our city. Now, on to the next 100!
At the very beginning of 2017, we presented our very first $100,000 Impact Grant to St. John Park. Well, the end of the year had just as much of an impact! In fact, we were able to give our second $100,000 Impact Grant to Houston School Park in Southeast Austin. The funds are earmarked for development of a pavilion at the park to create a space for outdoor education opportunities and community activities. Grants like this are a huge step in bringing great, quality parks and opportunities for people throughout the city. Along with this grant, we also announced our Fall community grantees which received almost $200,000 in collective funding to improve various Austin parks, trails, and green spaces.
Best is Yet to Come!
As we look back on 2017, we are encouraged and excited for what is ahead! Our work is not yet done. The work we do is not easy, but we are committed to enhancing people’s lives by improving our parks system. Once again, we wish to thank all of you for supporting us these past 25 years through volunteering, donating, advocating, and by simply using Austin’s 300+ parks. Here’s to the next 25 years of People + Parks!