Thursday, January 24, 2019 by Jessi Devenyns

Parks board OKs Givens Park Master Plan

After months of preparation and committee reviews, the Givens District Park Master Plan arrived before the Parks and Recreation Board on Jan. 22 as a consent item, only to be pulled due to members of the public who attended the meeting to ensure that their opinions were heard alongside those of city staff.

Larry Thomas, the leader of a local grassroots group called the Original People’s Coalition, spoke to the board on behalf of the nearby neighborhood to emphasize three key points that the neighbors are concerned about. He said that if the board took the neighborhood’s requests into account it would raise the plan from his self-administered “70 percent approval rating last week” to full-blown support.

“(We would like the park) to retain the rich heritage that it has within the black community of East Austin – the remaining black community, I should say,” Thomas began. Secondly, he said that the community was “adamantly” opposed to a dog park. According to Thomas, there is a perfectly positioned parcel of land on Oak Springs Drive and Springdale Road that is suitable to be repurposed as a dog park without taking any of the land or facilities away from the people who currently use them. Lastly, Thomas asked the board if they would be amenable to the suggestion of renaming one of the pavilions in the park after neighborhood matron Mildred Burke.

Rebecca Pittman, a landscape architect consultant with Freese & Nichols who helped design the master plan, explained to the board that before the team settled on a finalized version of the future park, there was plenty of community input, including 245 surveys. All the input resulted in two plans, which after community review, were combined in a manner that did not change much and more or less spruced up the existing structures.

“Most people like option one, that preserved the existing infrastructure and made improvements to it,” said Pittman.

She displayed the finished plan, which includes a few additions, such a multi-use field south of the recreation center for football and soccer leagues as well as a nature trail that winds through the trees in the west of the park. The existing ballfield was also expanded to a standard size and two sport courts were added.

There is, she emphasized, no plan for a dog park. Chair Jane Rivera directly addressed the citizen speaker from her district and told him that he can “tell the people” there will assuredly be no dog park.

Pittman said that part of the reason the lawn was decided to be multi-use is that in the community input, “a lot of people mentioned the Jump on It event that used to be there … (the big event space will) hopefully entice the event to come back to this park.” She said the facility is also ideal for different sports leagues of all ages.

“I love the preservation,” said Board Member Richard DePalma. Board Member Fred Morgan agreed, saying, “The thing that’s really impressive is the restoration of the picnic area.”

The board unanimously recommended the plan for approval. Board Member Frank Ward was absent.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department: The city department responsible for the city's park system, rec centers, and associated infrastructure.

Parks and Recreation Board: The city’s Parks and Recreation Board members deal with the acquisition, development, improvement, and maintenance of Austin’s parks and playgrounds.

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