It’s been a tough year for Austin’s parks. Already perennially underfunded, Austin’s parks and trails systems have been inundated, due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Tens of thousands of new users, overwhelming some of Austin’s most beloved parks, have taken their toll. Whether it be habitat degradation, increased littering and pollution, or just the daily wear and tear from thousands of visitors, our parks are worse for wear.
As of August 13th, however, that is beginning to change. Spearheaded by Council Members Paige Ellis, Natasha Harper-Madison, Leslie Pool, and Alison Alter, Austin’s parks will soon be getting the reinforcements they justly deserve.
FY2021 Budget Delivers Funding for PARD
Nearly $2 million of new funding will be appropriated to PARD above the original budget proposed by the City Manager. This is a big win for Austin’s parks and trails!
Leading the way, CM Paige Ellis proposed and secured nearly $1 million in new funding for Austin’s trails system. By adding new maintenance equipment and new full time employees to maintain Austin’s trails, PARD is better positioned to maintain Austin’s trail system as it experiences unprecedented usage. Additionally, by securing new vehicles for PARD’s maintenance efforts, CM Ellis has ensured that PARD is at the table for future workforce development initiatives.
Recreation Facilities Secure Needed Funding
Equally important, CM Harper-Madison and CM Alter collaborated to secure much-needed maintenance and repair funding for Eastside recreation facilities. While it may not seem overly glamorous, new roofs and air conditioning units are important in the Texas heat and desperately needed for key recreation centers East of I-35, especially as the City seeks to utilize these facilities for afterschool programming.
Finally, CM Pool sought to expand funding for childcare. While PARD already provides childcare programming, demand is ever-increasing for affordable options, especially as employees and essential workers are called back into regular work schedules.
CM Harper-Madison identified potential funding for these programs by increasing golf fees throughout PARD’s golf courses. While the financial benefit of this move remains to be seen, APF is pleased that Council Members are thinking creatively when it comes to funding childcare services and quality afterschool programming.
Active Transportation Bond: Coming to a Ballot Near You
Along with the important increase to PARD’s budget, City Council took a historic step to expand Austin’s trail system. CM Paige Ellis led City Council to add a $460 million safe mobility bond to the ballot in November.
Included in this bond is the single largest contribution to Austin’s trails system in history, with $80 million dedicated to building out Austin’s Tier 1 Urban trails identified in the Urban Trails Master Plan. APF partnered with Austin Outside to advocate for this bond package, and we’re thrilled with the success!
Overall, we’re grateful that Council Members sought to and 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 such a difference! APF is indebted to these incredible volunteers, who made this policy progress possible.
As we told City Council at the beginning of this summer, Parks Are Essential. We’re glad they agreed! Watch the video below to learn more about our asks for the 2020-21 Budget!