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59 Percent Of Austin's Inner City Residents Don't Live Near Park

Image by KUT News
People sit around a stage at Wooldridge Park in the summer of 2009. Almost two-thirds of inner city residents don't live near such amenities, according to a study.

Austin is a long way from achieving a goal set in 2009 of having a park within walking distance of everyone in the city. Fifty-nine percent of inner city residents do not live near those kind of open space amenities, according to the city's Urban Parks Stakeholders Group (UPSG).

The UPSG made this presentation to the City of Austin's Planning Commission last week, and it included some stark comparisons.

For example, the report said that in Boston, 97 percent of children live within one-quarter mile of a park. In Denver, 90 percent of residents live within 6 blocks of a park. In Minneapolis, 99.4 percent of residents live within 6 blocks of a park.

But in Austin, the city ranks 45th among 75 US cities in per-capita parks funding. Austinites pay an average of $41 per resident compared to the national average of $75.

The city's Parks and Recreation Department, meanwhile, has had its budget slashed and has cut costs by reducing the number of maintenance staff. There are only 123 employees available to maintain Austin's 14,911 acres of parkland.

"Austin has a long way to go to insure that our parks are accessible to families," UPSG member Heather Way told KUT News. 

"It's a huge public health issue," Way said.

Way points to an analysis of Austin's middle school obesity rates conducted last year by Children's Optimal Health using data provided by the Austin ISD.

The mapping project found a high correlation between high obesity rates and a lack of public park accessibility.

Finding money to build new parks could be challenging with property values yet to rebound to pre-recession levels. City departments are due to submit their proposals to the Budget and Capital Improvements Program in March.  City manager Marc Ott has pledged to make the budget adoption process as transparent as possible.

Check out this map (full screen link here) for a visual representation of park accessibility in the inner city.

Austin Urban Parks Gap Analysis

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.