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Jo Clifton is the Politics Editor for the Austin Monitor.
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Monday, October 19, 2020 by Jo Clifton
Hancock Conservancy pushes for park
As the city looks for alternatives to maintaining the Hancock Golf Course, which sits on Red River Street between East 38th and East 41st streets, a newly formed group is urging the city to turn the nine-hole course into a public park. The Hancock Conservancy is joining a dispute about whether the property, which has served as a golf course since 1899, should be changed into public parkland or be turned over to a private concession for use as a golfing center or some combination of the two.
A 2019 Parks and Recreation Department-commissioned study of the city’s golf courses outlined three options, including leasing the property to a private concession. Council Member Kathie Tovo said community members were invited to a meeting in February to share their opinions about whether the golf course should remain as is, become a park or be turned over to a private entity. Even though staff members expressed a desire for public input, they were planning to move ahead with the private option, she noted.
“I think that’s created some confusion in the community about the alternatives,” she said. “People think you’re providing feedback about those options, but really there was just one option. I don’t know what their intent is,” Tovo said, but, “I would certainly hope the Council would be guided by the feedback they get from the community on that point.” She said she did not think the private option had much community support, except perhaps from those who might see it as a business opportunity.
Adam Sparks, a spokesperson for the Hancock Conservancy, said the parks department’s failure to consult fully with the community about the options spurred the neighbors to start the conservancy. In a news release, he said, “Austinites are extremely clear in their opposition to leasing the land to a private developer and equally clear in their desire for a park. It’s time to listen to the people of Austin, reject a fenced-in driving range, and create a public park that will heal the land and provide open greenspace to all Austinites.”
Hugh Bender, president of the Hancock Neighborhood Association, is not affiliated with the conservancy, but said everyone he’s talked to “wants it to remain open space – whether it’s a golf course or a park.”
The Hancock Neighborhood Association is holding a special virtual meeting on the future of the golf course at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. Members will vote on a resolution concerning dividing the property between golf and parkland.
PARD is holding two virtual meetings to discuss the future of Hancock, at 7 p.m. on Oct. 26 and 5 p.m. on Oct. 29.
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.
Hancock Neighborhood Association: The Hancock Neighborhood comprises the area bounded by 45th Street on the north, 32nd Street on the south, Duval Street on the west, and Interstate Highway 35 on the east.