At Austin Parks Foundation people + parks are at the center of everything we do. We’re helping to build and improve our parks, and making sure they’re available and accessible to all Austinites. However, given the $700 million backlog of capital improvement projects and $100 million in deferred maintenance annually, our parks are starting to wonder whether we love them or love them not.
The Trust for Public Land’s Parkscore, the gold standard for park rankings, puts Austin 46th out of the 100 largest US cities. And it’s no surprise when the Parks & Recreation Department’s deferred maintenance list amounts to more than their annual budget!
Seeing the parks’ great need, APF sprang into action. We made the strategic decision to focus on advocacy, and increase park funding every year. Our advocacy priorities include:
- Increasing PARD’s share of the City of Austin’s budget
- Securing funding for parks in the November bond
- Finding and championing other unique and innovative funding sources
We’re proud to bring an equity lens to all of this work. We’re working to make sure that traditionally underserved communities have a voice, and that the city meets their needs.
Why is APF focusing on the city budget and bond opportunities?
Both the city budget, and the upcoming bond, represent the clearest way forward for better park funding. Austinites pay about $103 per residents for our parks system, yet the top ten ranked cities on Parkscore average about $208 per resident. Given our park’s needs, this statistic tells us that PARD’s annual budget could be doubled! We hope to give PARD the resources they need to realize Austin’s world class potential.
How does the bond help?
Texas municipalities often use general obligation bonds (using property taxes) for capital improvements, and these span twenty to thirty years. The last bond to provide funding to parks was in 2012, and PARD’s needs will become even more expensive between now and the next bond opportunity in 2024 or 2025. Some of their needs include parkland acquisition for our growing city, new infrastructure to realize park master plans, and repairs to aging infrastructure. Those higher future costs make the need for park funding now even more important.
What can we accomplish together?
APF and others are calling for parks to receive as much funding as possible. The louder our collective voice, the more likely City Council will be to listen to and address our parks system’s urgent needs. Austin desperately needs more funding to keep pools open, playscapes safe, trails maintained and recreation and cultural centers open and programmed. The good news is, working together, we can make sure PARD has the resources they need.
How can you help?
- Let us know if you want to join us! Email John Rooney to let him know you’re interested in learning about our advocacy efforts. We need advocates willing to join APF staff in meeting with council members and city staff, as well as contact their council members.
- Join our advocacy e-mail list for the latest updates. You’ll get info on council meetings, updates on how the bond is progressing, invites to give your opinion on park priorities, and more!
- Contact your Council Member! Write, call, and use social media to make sure our council members know their constituents care about parks. Find a list of contacts on our advocacy page, and let them hear from you!