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Parks board supports Pease Park Conservancy’s programming plan

Friday, December 3, 2021 by Amy Smith

Eeyore’s annual birthday party and park closures for private events were among the top concerns from some Parks and Recreation Board members Tuesday when the Pease Park Conservancy presented its 2022 programming plan for Kingsbury Commons at the park.

The good news is that the long-held Eeyore’s birthday tradition will continue at Pease – although the exact location is still undetermined – any “minimally open” days at Kingsbury Commons for private events, will be kept to a minimum of one event next year. (Eyeore’s birthday is a community event that is open to the public.)

With that, the parks board unanimously recommended City Council approval of the first annual programming plan for Kingsbury Commons, the 7-acre entryway to the park near the area where West 15th Street connects to Enfield Road. The historic 84-acre city park runs along North Lamar Boulevard to 24th Street.

The popular Kingsbury Commons opened in July after undergoing a $15 million renovation with money gifted from the Moody Foundation and $5 million raised by the conservancy. The area features a playscape and summertime water feature, a basketball court and baseball field, a unique treehouse and a spiffed-up 1920s-era Tudor cottage, which will be available to rent for private events.

Pease Park Conservancy CEO Heath Riddles-Sanchez told the board that his nonprofit hopes to bring in $75,000 in revenue from renting out the cottage, but certainly not in the first programming year alone.

“That is an aspirational dollar figure there,” Riddles-Sanchez told the board. “That is something that we look to achieve probably within five to seven years.”

All incoming revenue will be earmarked for operations and maintenance, he added.

The conservancy appears to be safely dipping its toe in the water with regard to programming in the first year, as most of the events are focused on community activities. The local focus will help the conservancy build a database of park users, Riddles-Sanchez said. While Pease Park is a designated district park, it has historically drawn people from across the city.

Board Member Rich DePalma said he had heard concerns about the future of Eeyore’s birthday celebration, an annual festival sponsored by the Friends of the Forest Foundation. DePalma said the spot that the foundation leaders thought would be designated for them is now covered with new plantings.

“We remain committed to working with Friends of the Forest to make sure that Kingsbury Commons is a hospitable home for Eeyore’s,” Riddles-Sanchez assured DePalma.

Speaking more broadly, Board Member Sarah Faust expressed concern about park closings for private events, such as during the Austin City Limits festival in October, when Zilker Park is closed.

The conservancy’s programming proposal goes to Council for approval Jan. 27.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license. This story has been changed since publication to clarify the nature of the park and potential closures.

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