Austin Parks Foundation launched a new parks database system on June 12 in tandem with its 30th anniversary, making it easier to find information about more than 300 parks in Austin. Categories in the database range from bikers to birdwatchers to runners to disc golfers to dog owners and people with children, allowing for a more curated outdoor experience.
For the last 30 years, Austin Parks Foundation has served as a steward of the city’s greenspaces by overseeing park improvements, spearheading volunteer efforts, providing significant financial investment, leading advocacy efforts, and hosting programming in parks for Austinites.
As the city of Austin has grown over the last three decades, APF has expanded its efforts to meet the needs residents and visitors have for local parks, including the launch of its new online parks database and the completion of numerous improvements at local parks to support a growing population.
New parks database
In addition to the physical and financial work done to support the city’s parks, the foundation is also focused on awareness and providing Austinites more direct access to park information. APF launched a new parks database system on June 12 in tandem with its 30th anniversary, which makes it easier to find information about more than 300 parks in Austin.
“With the previous system, the most challenging part was finding the parks,” said Anna Blake, Blackhawk’s Head of Web & Technology, an Austin-based marketing agency that partnered with the nonprofit on the project. “We added over 50 categories, and a location-based search with a way to find parks with dogs with playgrounds with trails. It’s a multifaceted system to find the right park.”
Categories in the database range from bikers to birdwatchers to runners to disc golfers to dog owners and people with children, allowing for a more curated and personalized experience for those wanting to find a new outdoor spot or hidden gem outside of the most well-known parks.
“Since Austin already has such a strong ecosystem of outdoor enthusiasts, this project was an opportunity to help reach even more people in the community with the work the foundation is doing,” said Jonathan Windham, Blackhawk’s Founder & CEO.
Supporting Austin’s parks
As the city’s long-standing nonprofit partner, APF works hand-in-hand with the Parks and Recreation department to provide funding for park projects. Many of these projects are completed through the organization’s Adopt-A-Park program, of which there are currently more than 100 groups in the Austin area.
“I think about supporting our parks in three ways,” said Joy Casnovsky, Chief Mission Officer for the Austin Parks Foundation. “The first of which is funding community-led projects. The second is through our ability to secure volunteer labor. We manage an extraordinary group of volunteers who work alongside staff and contractors to complete critical projects. We’ve deployed nearly 100,000 volunteers and accrued 300,000 volunteer labor hours, totaling around $6 million in park labor in the past two decades. And the third prong is the advocacy piece where we’re looking at, long-term, how are our parks being cared for? I think there’s something for everyone.”
The Adopt-A-Park groups are a perfect opportunity for those who want to steward open green spaces, playgrounds and trails. They are also usually the first gateway for people to engage in volunteer opportunities with APF.
There are plenty of opportunities throughout the year where Austinites can lend a hand to help transform the city’s greenspaces, including It’s My Park Day, the organization’s annual city-wide volunteer event taking place the first Saturday in March and November. Volunteer opportunities can range from cutting out invasive species like ligustrum, to mulching trees to cleaning up trash or debris in the parks. Additionally, individuals can also participate by applying for a grant for a neighborhood park project or volunteering at a school with a green school park.
Plus, the foundation hosts the Rock and Recycle program during the Austin City Limits Music Festival, allowing volunteers to attend the event for free in return for their help with the on-site recycling efforts. Over the last 17 years, ACL Music Festival’s partnership with APF has provided more than $48 million to Austin’s public park system. As the festival’s main beneficiary, APF’s unique relationship with the festival ensures a portion of every ticket purchase supports parks in every corner of Austin.
Volunteers and those contributions are critical to the foundation’s ability to assist with parks projects. Oftentimes, the city has land set aside for parks, but it may not have the funding to make that green space more than a field. That is where Austin Parks Foundation as a partner can come in and invest money to move the process along quicker.
This partnership was on display with the recent Alderbrook Pocket Park project in North Austin, where an Adopt-A-Park group helped lead efforts starting with the design phase and community engagement process prior to the start of construction.
“There’s a brand new playground and it’s right next to a community garden, plus they’re currently installing a new picnic pavilion,” Casnovsky said. “Because APF partners with the community and PARD, projects can come in faster.”
For those looking to support the foundation outside of volunteering or visiting parks, there are several donation opportunities available. APF is asking the community to donate $30 in support of Austin’s parks and their 30th anniversary this year.
To learn more about the Austin Parks Foundation, visit the website at www.austinparks.org to find volunteer opportunities, explore the database, find basic park information or ways to give. Plus, for those new to Austin or just looking for a new park to explore, check out this parks bucket list below for some inspiration before planning an outdoor adventure:
• APF awarded a $150,000 Community Impact Grant to Highland Neighborhood Park to fund specific amenities as part of the park’s overall vision plan implementation, including a pedestrian bridge, connection path, water fountain and more.
• Austin’s smallest park by the Old Bakery and Emporium on Congress.
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