2018 proved to be a great year for parks advocacy! Park advocates and APF Board and staff worked hard on issues like the 2018 bond development and election, Austin’s annual budget, raising the profile of parks issues for City Council candidates, and more. In the spirit of gratitude and giving thanks – here’s a look back at all we were able to accomplish together.
The Name’s Bond. 2018 Bond.
The year began with our community springing into action around the development of the bond propositions that ultimately made it onto Austinites’ ballots earlier this month. The Bond Election Advisory Task Force, the body tasked by Council with making recommendations on a possible bond program, initially considered cutting city staff’s starting recommendation of $120 million for reinvestment into our parks system to $79 million. APF Board members, staff and other advocates quickly leapt to our parks’ defense. Together, we ultimately convinced BEATF members of the importance of parks and the pressing needs facing our parks system. This work resulted in a recommendation to City Council of $164.5 million in reinvestment for our parks system. Park advocates also obtained an increase in funding for parkland acquisition, critical to meeting Austin’s goals for park accessibility, from $30 million to $45 million.
After continued advocacy before City Council, park advocates and APF were able to secure additional funding, and council voted to put $230.5 million dollars on this year’s ballot. Voters overwhelmingly supported Propositions B & C, and we’re so excited to see both Austin’s support for our parks, and the impact this funding will have on our historically underfunded parks system. More kids and adults will now have quality, accessible parks to play, meet their neighbors, and engage in healthy lifestyles. If that’s not exciting, we don’t know what is!
In addition to the bond, APF and our committed advocates made the 2019 city budget a top priority. We were able to talk with Council Members and the City Manager about the importance of our parks, and the need to address the Parks and Recreation Department’s chronic underfunding. We were thrilled when they responded by adding desperately needed staffing and funding to address areas such as:
- the parks system’s maintenance backlog
- the ADA-accessibility of our parks
- aquatics maintenance needs
- recycling in parks
- and more!
In total, the Parks and Recreation Department saw a nearly 10% increase to their funding this year. Although not all of it will be permanent, we’re thankful for Council’s work this year. We are especially grateful to Council Members Pool and Alter for their tireless parks advocacy, and to other members of City Council like Council Member Garza for making the motions to add in additional funding from what was proposed in the base budget by City Manager Cronk.
Your Vote is your Voice
Last but not least, you may have noticed there was an election this year. In addition to encouraging voters to support Propositions B & C, for the first time ever – we sent questionnaires to all City Council candidates and posted responses on both our website and on the Leadership Austin & Austin Tech Alliance Informed.Vote website for voters to learn where candidates stood on parks issues. We were thrilled to see the community’s support for parks with the passage of Props B & C, and to offer voters the chance to see where candidates stand on our parks, trails, pools and open spaces.
Last Action Item of 2018
The Austin Parks and Recreation Department recently launched Our Parks, Our Future, a long-range planning process that will guide the department over the next 10 years into our parks system’s centennial anniversary. After a number of public engagement events in November, they’re currently hard at work on collecting information on each park, and collecting additional public feedback via an online survey (English | Español).
None of the above would have been possible without the support of parks advocates in the community. We’re so grateful for the support of passionate parks lovers who joined us at City Hall and contacted their City Council Members to make sure that our representatives knew parks are important and vital to what makes Austin a special place to live.
We’ve got even more planned for 2019, and would love for you to join us. Love parks, or know somebody who does? We’d love to meet you! Reach out to us and join the community of Austinites fighting for green spaces. Thank you, Austin!