Project Playback: Park Adopters Save the Hill in Barton Hills Community Park

The Barton Hills Community Park was created when the elementary school was built in 1964. Since then, the community has added perennial and vegetable gardens, planted trees, secured one of APF’s ACL Music Festival Grants to install a playscape, and worked to install a tile mural. Though they have worked to make the park more beautiful and functional for the neighborhood, there was one area that needed serious improvements in order for the park to live up to the potential of the master plan.

The grounds include a hilly terrain, but because of severe weather, the main hill had become rutted and spare, leaving tree roots unprotected and allowing soil to erode quickly. The steep hill also meant accessibility for community members, young and old, was a challenge and this divided the park into an upper and lower terrace. With these challenges in mind, the Friends of Barton Hills Community Park applied for nearly $50,000 in the form of a Community Grant from APF to complete erosion control work including re-grading the hill with terracing stones (which double as seating) and re-vegetating the area.

Since its completion, the project has solved the serious erosion and drainage concerns, while creating connectivity between the upper and lower areas of the park.  The park is now more accessible and appealing, and allows community park-users to enjoy the entirety of the space.

“The large stone blocks slow and redirect the water to a layered trench, and have a function (seating) which has completely changed how folks interact in the park,” said Melissa Hawthorne of Friends of Barton Hills Community Park. “Before there was an upper area and a lower area. Now, the flow between the two happens more naturally. It was very exciting to watch the transformation!”

When asked what the most memorable part of the grant project was, Hawthorne said there were a few, but that seeing the difference in the compacted soil and the now remediated and healthy soil was a big one.

“The whole project was amazing,” Hawthorne said. “But if I had to define a memorable moment it would be going out as they were regrading the hillside and standing on an area of compacted nasty soil where if you jumped you would literally bounce… but as the dirt was remediated I thought of all the kids

[that would play] here in the future.”

Another key moment for Hawthorne was seeing the terraced seating do its job, and do it well.

“There was [also] the day it rained and I ran over there after work, “ Hawthorne said. “The regrading and blocks worked! It had dumped rain hard, and all of the soil and blocks did exactly what [they were] designed to do. Amazing!”

Barton Hills Community Park celebrated their newest additions and the completion of the project over the 4th of July holiday with a community gathering. Hawthorne said she was so pleased to see the blocks, not only working to keep the erosion of the landscape under control, but also facilitating movement and connection all over the park.


Project Playback is a series devoted to the park improvements that APF funds through our ACL Music Festival Grants program as well as other special projects that we support through fundraising, grants and partnership opportunities. Header photo courtesy Austin Woman Magazine, before and after photos courtesy Friends of Barton Hills Community Park.