2020 was the year nobody could’ve expected. With a nationwide call to shelter-in-place, businesses closed, and our most celebrated events canceled for the foreseeable future, Austinites looked for comfort. Our neighbors turned to the places they knew they could find space to breathe, move their bodies, and simply get away for a bit - even if away only meant walking distance from their own homes. In short, Austinites turned to our parks.
And our parks were ready.
Many things changed in 2020, but APF’s mission to improve parks, trails, and green spaces remained the same. Undeterred by global circumstances, and spurred on by the energy of global movements like Black Lives Matter and Stop AAPI Hate, we adapted and kicked off some of our most exciting and successful projects to date.
- We began work on the return of the Zilker Eagle. First opened in 1961, this train is a true Austin treasure and as we near its 60th anniversary, we’re proud to take the lead in restoring it to its former glory.
- We engaged Austinites as we discussed all things parks and public spaces to help make sure our community stayed informed and energized through our Parks Summit Series and our podcast, the Austin ParksCast.
- Just when we thought we’d have to postpone Party for the Parks, we turned it into a virtual event which became one of our most successful parties ever. Attendees were able to enjoy food, drinks and our live-stream program from home or their favorite park raising over $237,000 to support our work.
- And even though it felt like 2020 pressed pause, APF never stopped moving forward, supporting and completing over a dozen projects, including Colony Park District Park, Alliance Children's Garden, and EastLink Trail.
It has been a trying year, but thanks to the incredible effort of our team and nearly 30 years of hard work and dedication - our parks, trails and green spaces were there when Austinites needed them most. As our city continues to grow, with new Austinites discovering the beauty of our parks every day, we welcome and invite old and new Austinites to make sure these spaces continue to serve everyone’s needs. Through your donations, advocacy, and volunteerism, you are ensuring these essential resources thrive for years to come.
With sincere thanks,
Replaced vandalized kiosk
Gus Garcia Park
Basketball court installation
Kendra Page Park
Added water fountain, nature play area and trail improvements
Field and turf improvements
Backstop replacement on multi-use field
Maintaining our parks and recreation spaces is vital to keeping our community vibrant and active. In 2020, APF helped restore several sports courts in need of resurfacing, including Northwest District Park, Pastor Craig Park, Givens District Park and six others.
As one of only three pools in southeast Austin, Montopolis Pool serves as a neighborhood hot spot. By installing a new shade structure and concrete slab beneath, APF is helping protect the lifeguards who keep us safe all summer long.
After years of advocacy, Georgian Acres has a beautiful park to call their own. The new park includes a playscape, basketball court, bike racks, water fountains, walking trail, pavilion and picnic tables, and was made possible through a partnership with Austin Parks Fou, the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, St. David’s Foundation, and Dell Match Play.
Parque Comal, or Comal Pocket Park, is nestled in Central East Austin on the corner of Comal and 3rd Street. Originally home to Comal School, APF provided brand new play equipment, but the full park renovation was led by the Parks & Recreation Department. While the park has always been a neighborhood hub, today it is better equipped to host neighbors of all ages with brand new amenities!
Springdale Neighborhood Park is a shining example of how wonderful neighborhood parks are for their communities. Partnering with Tres Grace to complete a much-needed playground renovation, and working with Texas Conservation Corp on trail improvements, this East Austin park is an example of what can be accomplished when community groups work together.
Having a playspace everyone can enjoy has been a major concern for the Govalle Neighborhood. As a trailhead to the Walnut Creek Trail and home to Govalle Pool, this park has been a neighborhood hub for years. With a playground renovation designed for ADA accessiblity, Govalle Neighborhood Park will now be a place children of all abilities can enjoy.
In 2016, APF, PARD and St. David’s Foundation partnered with the neighborhood to develop a premiere park space in Northeast Austin. Colony Park District Park, adjacent to Turner Roberts Recreation Center, is the heart of the neighborhood - uniting surrounding areas and creating outdoor recreation opportunities for all ages and abilities. With multi-use trails, an all-inclusive children’s play environment, two sports fields, a pavilion, benches, drinking fountains and a fitness plaza, a community vision that began long ago is now a reality.
Located within Butler Park, this 2-acre recreational area represents the fulfillment of a multi-year effort by APF, PARD, neighbors and partners to provide Austinites with a multi-purpose cultural park in the heart of the city. Alliance Children's Garden has four thematic areas that represent Austin’s unique culture and environment. The park is tailored for children, but provides a variety of experiences for visitors of all ages and abilities. Most of the play amenities are integrated into the landscape, making it unlike any playscape you’ve seen before!
Austin Parks Foundation, in partnership with the City of Austin and the Mueller Foundation, are proud to be leading the work to make the EastLink Trail a reality. EastLink is a 5.1 mile urban trail in Central East Austin that connects Bartholomew Park to Lady Bird Lake and every civic asset in between. With this community-based initiative to repair old trails, and in some cases build new trails for pedestrians and cyclists, EastLink will help connect Austinites to places in safer, healthier ways.
In 2016, Austin Parks Foundation set out to study the challenges of recycling in parks, trails and green spaces faced by PARD and Austin Resource Recovery. Originally focused on strategic areas, with the success of the program, the Recycling in Parks Initiative is now increasing recycling availability to all parks. With Austinites becoming more environmentally conscious than ever, it’s a smart investment to help keep our parks and our planet clean.
Too often, smaller neighborhood and pocket parks are overshadowed by larger projects. As APF’s first Park Master Plan from our Park Design Service, the community was able to enlist designers to create a vision plan for the space. With this plan now in place, they can solicit public feedback and begin fundraising efforts in earnest. Pomerleau Pocket Park is a perfect example of APF’s mission to give under-served areas the tools and access needed to build a great park.
For Little Walnut Creek Greenbelt, a new trailhead, developing existing informal trails and additional parking is only the beginning. A Community Vision Plan approved in 2019 proposes shelters and restrooms spaced throughout the park, along with a playground, dog park, outdoor classroom and adult fitness area in the southwest corner. This will act as a community hub and entryway into wild spaces beyond!
The Adopt-A-Park program is critical to our strategy of ensuring great parks for every Austinite.These incredible park stewards help us expand our impact and bring resources to every neighborhood in Austin. In 2019, APF expanded the program to include sponsorship of community gardens. With an estimated 100,000 pounds of fresh, local, organic produce grown by Austin residents each year, this valuable resource keeps Austinites engaged, educated, and fed in green spaces across the city. This year, we were proud to partner Tito’s Vodka to distribute 100 GroBoxes to these essential spaces.
These wooden boxes filled with seedlings from Tito’s own distillery farm offered local gardeners an easy way to rebuild and expand their gardens with fewer hands on deck. Just as we have done for decades with the Adopt-A-Park, APF and partners like Tito’s aim to give communities the resources to improve their community, be that in green spaces or gardens. Learn more about our Adopt-A-Park program here!
Since 1992, APF has been focused on getting people into their parks. Whether that means organizing volunteers, finding advocates to speak at city council meetings, or encouraging neighbors to lend their experience and expertise, APF has always been about direct engagement to better our parks, trails, and green spaces.
As parks became one of our most valuable communal escapes during quarantine, APF’s mission to maintain and improve our parks became more important than ever. Shifting to virtual engagement forced us to cancel some of our most beloved events, but we also had some of our largest successes virtually.
We look forward to getting our hands back in the dirt and engaging directly with the community again, but thanks to your virtual support, APF has been able to keep fighting for one of Austin’s most valuable resources - our parks. Learn more about our Virtual Community Engagement here!
With lockdowns in place and new Austinites arriving daily, 2020 offered unprecedented challenges to Austin’s parks, trails, and green spaces. While parks are often first on the chopping block when times are tough, this year, thanks to APF advocates, park adopters, and Austin City Council members - Paige Ellis, Natasha Harper-Madison, Leslie Pool, and Alison Alter - Austin’s parks experienced some major and much-needed wins at City Hall.
Nearly $2 million in new funding was appropriated to PARD, increasing the original 2021 proposed budget, including $1 million for Austin’s trail system. Equally important, funding was secured for much-needed maintenance and repair for East Austin recreation facilities. With new roofs and air conditioning units to combat the Texas heat, these key recreation centers east of I-35 will be able to serve their communities better and keep Austinites safe.
In addition to the important increase in PARD’s budget, City Council also added a $460 million safe mobility bond to the ballot in November. This bond includes the single largest contribution to Austin’s trails system in its history, with $80 million dedicated to building out Austin’s Tier 1 Urban trails. APF partnered with Austin Outside to advocate for this bond package, and we couldn’t be more thrilled by its success.
We’re grateful that even during this difficult year, Council Members succeeded in providing Austin’s parks system with more funding. These new funds could not have been secured without APF’s advocates and park adopters leading the charge. Park advocates in each City Council district made their voices heard, and it made a world of difference. APF is indebted to our incredible volunteers who made this policy progress possible. Learn more about our current park advocacy efforts here!
The Little Hummingbird Society (LHS) offers our youngest park advocates and volunteers a great way to learn about giving back to their community and the importance of Austin’s parks, trails and green spaces. We designed this program to involve kids in volunteer opportunities in our local parks and while we’ve typically offered in-person activities, in 2020, we shifted to a digital model. Members and non-members were able to download printable activity booklets and explored other socially-distanced “quarantivities” via our site.
Volunteerism is the backbone of APF. Whether advocating for our parks before City Council, getting out the vote for bond measures, or putting in the hard work to improve our parks, trails, and green spaces, the tireless efforts of volunteers are at the core of APF’s success.
It's My Park Day Spring & Fall 2020
Our most beloved volunteer event is It’s My Park Day. Every year on this day members of the community join in their local parks, get their hands dirty, and band together to make a huge impact, both in improvements and dollars saved. IMPD has grown tremendously over the past years with our Spring 2020 event being our biggest ever.
However, during the Fall of 2020 due to COVID-19, APF had to adapt our Fall IMPD. By blending in-person and virtual volunteer opportunities, APF offered communities new ways to contribute to their parks in 2020. We’re looking forward to returning to a huge It’s My Park Day, but thanks to our generous volunteers, 2020 was a huge success!
The Eagle Lands Fall 2021
Like you, we were saddened when the Zilker Zephyr went out of commission in 2019. However, we’ve learned that there was no stopping this train, and as an iconic piece of Austin’s past, APF is proud to be taking the lead in restoring the Zilker mini train to its former glory.
The new Zilker Eagle honors the 60-year tradition of having a mini train in Zilker Park, while also looking to the future of this beloved park attraction. With the help of renowned local design firm Frank & Victor, the new train has an identity as unique and welcoming as Austin itself.
Taking to the tracks this fall, the Zilker Eagle will be fully electric with a new route and accessibility for all. Plus every ticket supports Austin’s parks, trails, and green spaces. All aboard!
Our Virtual Parks Summit Series
The Parks Summit began in 2015 as a one-day, in-person event for park adopters. This year, we transformed the event into the Parks Summit Series, a virtual live-stream series where we tackled important topics in a format open to the public. Hundreds of Austinites passionate about parks joined lively discussions between experts and stakeholders. Thanks to the virtual format, all Parks Summit Series sessions are available to view anytime at austinparks.org/parks-summit!
The Austin ParksCast: APF's New Podcast
With such great feedback from the Parks Summit Series, we’ve also launched a podcast - The Austin ParksCast. If you're passionate about Austin's parks, trails, green spaces or community gardens, this is the podcast for you. Find it at austinparks.org/parkscast or anywhere you get your podcasts.
The pandemic changed everything, including our most celebrated events. While in the thick of it, APF assumed we’d postpone Party for the Parks. However, bolstered by the new-normalness of online events, we turned it into a virtual event which became one of our most successful Party for the Parks events ever!
With entertainment from local multi-instrumentalist Jackie Venson and food from Emmer & Rye, attendees were able to safely gather and enjoy our live-stream program from their homes or favorite parks, and helped raise over $237,000 to support our work. Watch the event livestream here!
86% OF EVERY DOLLAR GIVEN TO APF GOES DIRECTLY TO PARK PROJECTS AND PROGRAMS
Austin Parks Foundation relies on the generosity of our donors, and we are incredibly grateful for their invaluable support throughout 2020. Without their commitment to our programs and projects, Austin's parks would be in even greater need. Our work would not be possible without the many businesses and individuals who are making an investment in our cherished green spaces. In an especially tough year, we are humbled by this community that truly believes in the power of people + parks. Thank you for supporting our work in Austin's parks, trails and green spaces!