Austin Parks And Rec Dept.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez

The City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department will present the latest version of its Aquatics Master Plan to the public in two meetings this week.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Austin’s hotels bring in millions of dollars in tax revenue for the city each year. For the past few months, the city has been exploring new uses for that money. As the revenue continues to grow, some local parks groups think it could be a way to fund their proposed improvement projects. 

The equipment on Austin’s playgrounds is slowly, but surely, being replaced, and the new equipment looks a little different.


Austin Monitor

From the Austin Monitor:

A report by the city auditor’s staff found that the Parks and Recreation Department’s Cemetery Operations Group has demonstrated a “general lack of oversight” in managing certain aspects of the city’s municipal cemeteries.

KUT

Update: The City of Austin opened three more pools over the weekend. 24 city pools are now open, while 10 remain closed.

All pools were originally scheduled to open Friday, June 6.  The city is still hiring and training lifeguards to staff the remainder of the pools.

Original story (June 12): Outside Shipe Pool Wednesday afternoon, two-year-old Redding McArdle wore two blue, inflatable arm floats – one on each arm.

But instead of splashing in the pool, Redding ran around the playground in his swim trunks because the Hyde Park neighborhood pool he’d come to swim in was closed today.

flickr.com/trostle

The Austin City Council approved the acquisition of the Grey Rock Golf Club's courses and tennis facility today, allocating $9.6 million of the Parks and Recreation Department’s budget for the purchase.

The course sits on 292 acres of south of Lady Bird Lake, adjacent to the Circle C subdivision. The course lies in the environmentally sensitive Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone.

City Deputy Chief Financial Officer Greg Canally called the Grey Rock purchase a “unique opportunity to acquire a piece of land that actually comes with an existing revenue stream.” Some of that existing revenue will be leveraged to pay off an estimated $400,000 in debt service; the department estimates the revenue will cover half of that amount.

Courtesy of Sustainable Food Center

The Sustainable Food Center's East Austin farmer's market had a perennially irritating problem: Poison ivy was blocking a portion of the market's space. They couldn't use chemicals or herbicides — it wouldn't exactly jive with their goal of sustainability. 

So they got creative, turning to a four-legged, environmentally (and people) friendly alternative: Goats.

Now, Austin parks may be looking to adopt the strategy to beautify green spaces across the city, as well.

flickr.com/riosetiawan

Dry conditions have led to more burn bans being issued for Austin and surrounding areas.

The ban temporarily prohibits open fires and grilling in parks. Smoking continues to be prohibited in parks. The ban does not include propane grills and stoves in designated picnic areas.

City of Austin

Just days after its grand opening, Roy G. Guerrero Metropolitan Park already faces an uncertain future.

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department's budget allows for only four full-time workers to maintain a 400-acre complex of trails, playgrounds, sports fields and other features.

Google Maps

Auditorium Shores is a step closer to closing for a year.

Today, the Austin Parks and Recreation Board voted to recommend that City Council approve a plan to upgrade the park with a $3.5 million donation from an Austin-based event planning company C3 Presents. You can watch that meeting online

Flickr, Jeff Gunn http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffgunn/5783484625/sizes/m/in/photostream/

The rain we’ve had lately isn’t enough to get rid of the drought, but it is enough to get rid of the burn ban in Austin Parks.

Austin Parks and Recreation is lifting the ban, effectively immediately, and removing the plastic that’s been wrapped around barbecue grills.

The lifting of the ban also means campfires are okay, but only at Emma Long Metropolitan Park.

Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

The City of Austin is reporting a shortage of people applying to be lifeguards. The Aquatics Division of the Parks and Recreation Department needs more  applicants than it has jobs for, because not everyone will get through the training.

“We have 600 positions open, but they need a thousand applicants to fill those 600 positions, because, not everybody has the qualifications," Parks and Recreation spokesperson Victor Ovalle said.

Andrew Weber for KUT News

The Historical Landmark Commission of Austin meets tonight to decide the future of four grants to preserve historical landmarks.

And every project may not get their slice of the $126,000 that’s been requested this year.

facebook.com/Ilikeservicedogs

When planning to book a public venue in Austin, keep in mind the city is going to charge a bunch of fees, some are for permits, maintenance and cleanup. Organizers of large and well-attended gatherings have no problem paying those fees. But non-profits sponsoring smaller events sometimes ask the city to waive them.

This week, the city council will vote on five such waivers. With so many of these smaller events taking place, what happens when fees are waived?

courtesy Austin Energy

City officials are looking for the public's help in deciding what to do with the land around the Holly Power Plant in East Austin, which is scheduled to be fully decommissioned by later this year.

Currently, plans have designated the 9.3 acres of surrounding land to be handed over to the Austin Parks & Recreation Department for development into a park.

flickr.com/atmtx

Update: For all those interested in voicing their opinions over potential changes to the iconic Austin destination, you can do that today at 6:30 p.m. during a public meeting at the Mayfield House and Nature Preserve.

Original Story (Feb. 8, 12:40 p.m.): Alluring Austin overlook Mount Bonnell may see some slight changes.

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department is partnering with the West Point Society of Central Texas to make updates at the historic park. The City of Austin is holding a community engagement meeting to field public input on the potential changes to the park.

flickr.com/atmtx/

The YMCA of Austin is trying to recruit lifeguards earlier this year.

In order to prevent last year’s shortage of lifeguards, the YMCA of Austin has expanded its schedule of YMCA and American Red Cross Lifeguarding Certification classes this spring.

Last summer, the YMCA hired 200 lifeguards. This summer, they're hoping to hire 250. But, YMCA spokesperson Sean Doles said the lifeguard shortage was not an issue just at the YMCA, but in the community as a whole—and even across the nation.

City of Austin

The City of Austin’s Aquatic Division manages over 50 public pool facilities. The Bartholomew Pool, in particular, has demanded significant time and funding from the city since 2009.

Now, the city says the pool will need even more time and money before it's ready to reopen.

flickr.com/ericinsf

Cemeteries in many cities are considered important historical places, memorials to famous and influential people. Consider the Granary in Boston, Highgate in London, the Pere Lachaise in Paris.  But in Austin only one cemetery fits that category – and the State Cemetery is maintained by Texas. 

And the contrast between the state cemetery in Austin and the city owned ones - is breathtaking. 

flickr.com/leftymgp

Runners, cyclists and trail patrons welcomed the return of the water coolers at the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail this morning.

RunTex, a local sporting goods store, has provided the water to trail-users for twenty years. But last November, the city removed the coolers over sanitation concerns.

Joy Diaz, KUT News

The Austin City Council could decide today whether to start a pilot program aimed at keeping some hike and bike trails open 24 hours a day.

The proposal by council member Chris Riley has little support from his peers because it comes with the hefty price tag: a little over $3 million a year for extra police patrols. But whether it goes forward or not, the program is making the city think about how it will patrol trails in the future.

flickr.com/pyxopotamus

Starting next Monday, the city will shut off water to Emma Long Metropolitan Park for about three months, causing a major inconvenience for campers and others who use the park. Emma Long has 66 campsites, hundreds of places to picnic, and beaches.

The Parks and Recreation Department is shutting off water so it can conduct some major repairs to a water treatment plant and storage tank located at the park. Both were built in 1985 and need servicing.

flickr.com/leftymgp

The coolers are coming back in the new year.

A report this morning that the popular water coolers on the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail had been removed got pulses racing.

Run Tex and Rogue Running have provided free water to trail enthusiasts for years. But the practice apparently ran afoul of health and safety regulations: about two weeks ago, the water coolers evaporated from the trail.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Two separate projects on Lady Bird Lake may temporarily get in the way of folks using part of the hike and bike trail.

The city is getting ready to begin work along the Shoal Creek peninsula near the Seaholm Power Plant. Construction begins soon, and is expected to last six months. Portions of the hike and bike trail near the peninsula and the parking lot west of Shoal Creek and South of Cesar Chavez will be closed and those using the trail will be detoured to Cesar Chavez.

KUT News

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department has lifted the burn ban for all city parks. Department Director Sara Hensley cites recent rainfall and improving drought conditions for the change.

No more burn ban means grilling is now allowed in designated areas. Campfires are only allowed at Emma Long Metropolitan Park.

The city reminds everyone that fires should never be left unattended and should be fully extinguished when not in use. The city says a source of water should also be kept nearby.

Naturally, you won't be able to grill or build a campfire at Zilker Park during the Austin City Limits Music Festival. But more importantly, you also won't be able to smoke there.

KUT News

The Austin City Council is considering changing a city code that relates to the naming or renaming of parks and park facilities this week.

Right now, the code states that parks can only be named after a person or a group that has made 'exceptional contributions' to the park system. In fact, the process is pretty simple: a person submits an application asking for a park facility to named or renamed and, after 90 days, the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Board and the city council review all of the suggested names.

The proposed amendment would make it more difficult to change a park name based on community significance. It would require signatures from up to 75 percent of residents in the area of a park or park facility.

The amendment would also add a 'financial contribution component' to the process. No signatures would be required, but name changes could be awarded based on money or land donated to the city.

Congress for the New Urbanism - Central Texas chapter

Finding a parking spot in downtown Austin can sometimes be a challenge. Today, for Worldwide PARK(ing) Day, there will be two fewer spaces – but supporters say the spaces’ transformation serves a greater purpose.

Two parking spaces on Congress Avenue between Sixth Street and Seventh Street, outside the Royal Blue Grocery, have been temporarily converted into a “parklet”— where, instead of parking, people are  invited to use the space as a park-like area to enjoy lunch, read a newspaper, or even just sit and chat.

The parklet conversion and local appreciation of Worldwide PARK(ing) Day is being overseen by the Central Texas chapter of the Congress for the New Urbanism, which seeks to promote smarter civic design. It notes that Worldwide PARK(ing) Day started in 2005, when a San Francisco design firm converted a single metered parking space into a temporary pocket park.

Daniel Reese for KUT News

A good — and groggy — morning to the 50,000 UT-Austin students returning to class today. Here’s some of Austin’s top overnight stories.

Austin School Board Approves 2012-13 Budget

The Austin ISD Board of Trustees approved a budget for the coming school year last night, including $14 million in raises for district employees.

The Austin American-Statesman has more details on the budget:

The district will keep its tax rate the same, at $1.242 per $100 of assessed value, with $1.079 for operations and 16.3 cents for debt. The owner of an average taxable value home, $244,534 after exemptions, would pay $3,037 annually, an increase of $7.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map shows portions of Central Texas have moved from moderate to severe drought.

Recent hot and dry weather has prompted several Central Texas counties to issue burn bans.

Travis, Williamson, Hays and Burnet Counties are all prohibiting outdoor burning.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Wooldridge Square, a small park between the Travis County Courthouse and Austin's Central Library downtown, will be closed for eight months starting in June.

The city is also reaching out to a few homeless people who live in the park, and referring them to social services. Austin's Department of Health and Human Services is asking local homeless service organizations to post this flyer in their offices.

“I’m not happy about the closure, and I don’t know if it’s really worth the effort,” homeless man Bruce Kline told KUT News. He said he’s lived in the park for about two years and doesn’t want to live in a homeless shelter. “They’re supposed to have people come out and tell us where to go once the park closes, but they haven’t yet.” 

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