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Parkland Events Task Force recommendations need more work

Tuesday, February 6, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

Almost exactly a year ago, the Parks and Recreation Department was tasked with implementing the final recommendations that were adopted by City Council from the 17-member Parkland Events Task Force.

Established in 2015, the task force was given the assignment to find a balance between the everyday use of the park system and special events by ensuring “that all City parks, but most particularly Auditorium Shores, Zilker Park, and Festival Beach, remain first and foremost assets for the citizens of Austin to enjoy and that the parks are preserved and enhanced for future generations of Austinites and visitors to experience and enjoy.”

In August 2017, eight months after the task force submitted their final recommendations, city staff conducted follow-up meetings with four Council offices meeting with Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and Council members Ann Kitchen, Jimmy Flannigan and Pio Renteria to collect additional input on four of the 43 recommendations. The meetings were conducted one-on-one with the Council offices in October and were not open to the public.

After taking the feedback into account, city staff determined that “currently there is insufficient consensus for the creation of an additional ordinance or resolution.”

The recommendations pertained to event co-sponsorship evaluation, damage deposit waivers, ticket acceptance policies and the inclusion of Long Center events into limits established for Auditorium Shores.

According to a memorandum sent from PARD to City Council, Council offices collectively responded that events should work toward furthering their financial sustainability and goal achievement; they also called for the accountability of grant-funded events.

However, overall, of the 43 recommendations put forward, PARD has completed all but six, which are park administrative and ordinance changes that are dependent on additional funding.

Three of the outstanding implementations are under the purview of partner city departments. Three others are at the mercy of future budget or bond funding consideration.

One of the outstanding items is a citywide event economic impact study that will be used to determine the benefits of events to the economic engine of Austin. To complete this, a minimum of $15,000 is required with some estimates ranging as high as $75,000.

However, there may be a few resolutions in sight. Two of the six remaining recommendations a master plan for parking expansion and a master plan for alternative event space currently have funding proposed within the potential 2018 bond.

PARD requested that $5 million from the bond be allocated to roadway and parking lot improvements in city parks. For the top three choices of parkland for potential event space, the costs of improvement will total $8.4 million. PARD has determined its top three choices to be Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park, John Trevino Jr. Metropolitan Park and Bolm Road District Park.

Photo by Larry D. Moore [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.

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