We’re celebrating 20 years of It’s My Park Day! This biannual event features 160+ projects and a few thousand volunteers. It’s remarkable to see how the community comes together to grow this event each year–and we are GRATEFUL!
As we lead up to our 20th Anniversary event on November 4, we want to highlight project leaders who continually make a difference in their neighborhood parks.
St. John Pocket Park:
Anissa Castillo–IMPD project leader since 2018–has played an integral part in the transformation of St. John Pocket Park. Castillo and her family moved to the St. John community in 2016 and became active in the St. John Neighborhood Association (SJNA) in 2017.
Castillo attributes the early groundwork for St. John Pocket Park to SJNA members and an inaugural APF Impact Grant awarded in 2016. This initial beautification and cleaning up of the park eventually led Castillo to becoming a Park Adopter with APF.
Since joining SJNA in 2017, Castillo has seen St. John Pocket Park undergo renovations and will soon see the park expand even more. Castillo’s continued involvement with St. John Pocket Park stems from her belief that parks help keep people and communities healthy.
“Austin needs green spaces as our population continues to skyrocket. Preserving green space in this community with such a great history, especially the history of the Black community, is gratifying and humbling.”
With five years under her belt as a project leader, Castillo says IMPD has been key to sustaining the park. It’s also brought the community into the park more as they come together to clean up and mulch trees.
“I like to think the IMPD opportunities have given these neighbors a great sense of purpose upon participation.”
As Castillo looks to the future expansion of the park, she acknowledges the help of APF, Congressman Greg Casar, Councilman Chito Vela, SJNA Officer Andre Black, City of Austin Parks & Recreation along with many other community organizations.
The expansion of St. John Pocket Park will make it more visible, extending to St. John Avenue and changing the face of the main thoroughfare into the neighborhood. Castillo says she’s is excited to add more space for wellness and health within the neighborhood.
If you would like to get involved with St. John Pocket Park–or another It’s My Park Day project–register here.
Country Club Creek Greenbelt:
For nearly 20 years, Malcolm Yeatts has been involved with the Country Club Creek Greenbelt trail. Since 2004, Yeatts has helped with building and maintaining the trail. In 2015, the property was purchased by the city, and though ownership changed, the same group of community volunteers continued to improve the greenbelt.
Yeatts recalls it taking four years–and 12 major projects–to remove all the trash out of the greenbelt.
Once the trash was removed, they were able to create mountain bike trails in partnership with Austin Ridge Riders throughout the greenbelt. Another major upgrade: an information kiosk. The kiosk came from an APF Impact Grant and helped to increase the number of volunteers at Country Club Creek Greenbelt events.
“We constantly remind Austin residents that Austin parks need volunteers to help maintain their beauty.”
The addition of mountain bike trails and an information kiosk have helped Yeatts and community volunteers to expand their impact. The kiosk features events and organizations that Country Club Creek Greenbelt works with to maintain the trail.
Beverly S. Sheffield Northwest District Park:
Ranleigh Hirsh and many of her neighbors were introduced to APF thanks to the Austin Parks and Recreation Department in 2016. At that time, fellow project leader Kata Carbone organized neighborhood meetings to discuss city projects scheduled for Beverly S. Sheffield Northwest District Park. The community understood that some of these city projects could take years and they wanted to identify other projects that could begin immediately.
To kick things off, a park user survey was sent around to better understand the wants and needs of the community. Over the past eight years, APF and Friends of Beverly S. Sheffield Northwest District Park have worked together to create major improvements in the park.
The group has seen a drastic change in participation during It’s My Park Day, growing from 20 to over 80 volunteers.
“We have a great community that’s eager to give back to the park. It is great to see whole families who come to every event with t-shirts from the past.”
Events like It’s My Park Day have created camaraderie and pride amongst Beverly S. Sheffield NW District Park goers, which led to the park adopter group creating regular work days each month. The group aims to host two work days a month, allowing volunteers to perform regular maintenance throughout the park so that during larger events they can tackle bigger tasks.
Patterson Neighborhood Park:
In 2016, Jennifer Potter-Miller took on the Friends of Patterson Park chair role. Shortly after assuming her new role, she sat down with APF staff to understand what renovations the group could make to the park. The group decided to update the old, peeling picnic tables under the pavilion. Thanks to a Neighborhood Grant from APF, the picnic tables were replaced and the community celebrated with a potluck. Since then, the park adopter group has continued to focus on building community.
Friends of Patterson Park utilizes potlucks, ice cream socials and much more to engage their community. Potter-Miller has realized that people LOVE free ice cream.
“I’ve made most of my friends hanging out at the park with neighbors. Our kids are all teenagers, but they still love ice cream parties at the park.”
In addition to social gatherings, Potter-Miller hosts It’s My Park Day events in Patterson Neighborhood Park each year. The kids who enjoy those ice cream parties also enjoy hauling mulch around the park and helping new volunteers. The best advice Potter-Miller can give to people: Build your community.
Keep an eye on this space as we update this with more It’s My Park Day stories!