Parks Galore!

Earlier this week, Council Member Casar set up a small meeting between Highland and Skyview Neighborhoods and Austin Parks Dept officials. The focus of the meeting was to inform us on the progress on two parks in the Highland Neighborhood: a pocket park for toddlers on the grounds of Reilly Elementary, and the larger Highland Neighborhood Park.
At present, the link between these two parks is that initial progress will be paid through Parkland Dedication Fees by the mixed-use developers at Highland ACC. The City recently increased the fees which arise when the developers’ plans do not allot for sufficient green space. ACC’s master plan does include 3 parks, 2 passive use (think: walking trails, benches) and 1 active use at the St Johns Encapment Commons, but these parks do not provide enough square footage to meet the City’s threshold. Hence, they pay into a fund that is distributed to the surrounding neighborhoods.
The smaller and quicker project will be at Reilly, which could break ground this summer, and could be complete by year’s end.
The $190,000 allocation for this park has already been paid when the permits for the first apartment building at ACC were issued
(this is the construction that started a few months ago on the far south end of the ACC Highland property).
The Reilly Park—not yet named, but for now let’s say “Mustang Tots Lot”—will be near the southwest corner of Reilly’s grounds,
on land owned by the City.
Some improvements to Reilly’s existing playground may also be part of this project.
The new park will be fenced off from Reilly’s playground with gates on both the Guadalupe side as well as into Reilly’s playground.
As for Highland Neighborhood Park, progress has been made behind the scenes. We, the Parks Committee, are currently in a holding pattern waiting on some of the engineering to be done. Initially, Parks was going to have that done externally, for a nice sum. However, this work is going to be done in-house. It will still take several months to complete, but when that’s done—and this is the good news—the fees for the next two buildings at ACC will be in place to cover the cost of building out one or both of the new playgrounds at a cost of $200,000. This work will include some ADA parking (currently non-existent) and sidewalk access to the new playgrounds and is expected to be allocated in the Oct 2017 park fees appropriation cycle so that work could begin sometime in 2018.
However, neither the ACC development fees nor any grants we might get access to will come close to paying the $4 million project for the bulk of the park construction—moving the kickball fields, installing sport courts, new parking lot, irrigation, bathrooms, shelter, etc. The expense for this work is expected to be covered by the Nov 2018 Parks Bond. When that time comes, we will all need to get out and vote, and after it passes we will need to get out and call and visit the bond committee to ensure we get the funds for our Highland Neighborhood Park. That is a ways off, but some smaller aspects can be accomplished while waiting for the larger funds. Namely, that would be the above-mentioned playground(s). Also some pathways along the ditch (Waller Creek) may be covered under the recently passed Transportation Bond.
If you’re still reading and live in the southern reaches of Highland, you might appreciate that our Skyview neighbors are moving forward with a plan to improve some of the paved area near the Waller Creek footbridge into a pocket park, with better connectivity from the bridge to Guadalupe.
  In the nearer future, we are looking forward to It’s My Park Day on March 4. Stay tuned for more information about that :-)
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Master Plan Final Draft Available

The final draft is now available on the City’s Highland Neighborhood Park master planning website. If you don’t want to click around their website, links are included below to the presentation and concept boards for the park and greenbelt. The presentation shows in detail the character and concept survey and what Norris Design has imagined for different pieces of the park based upon community input.

We anticipate that the final draft will be presented to the Park Board for approval in June. Once it is approved we will be exploring grant options that would allow us to phase amenities into the park. If you are interested in helping with the grant writing process or becoming a member of Friends of Highland Neighborhood Park, which supports and advocates for the park, please email

The master plan, created with collaboration between Highland, UHO, PARD and Norris Design, is an exciting vision of a beautiful green space we can share with our family, friends, and neighbors. THANK YOU to Norris Design, PARD, Asakura Robinson, who led community outreach for the workshops, and all the Highland residents who have taken part in the master planning and all the hard work leading up to it!


March 23rd Presentation

Concept Board-Greenbelt

Concept Board-Park

Concept Board-Revised

Concept Board-Overall Master Plan

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Final Master Planning Meeting Next Wednesday

Our last master planning meeting for Highland Neighborhood Park will be next Wednesday, March 23rd, from 6:30 to 8pm at Reilly Elementary, 405 Denson Dr. We will see and give input on the final draft, which incorporates results from the survey on the two park concepts presented by Norris Design in February.

Join us for the plan unveiling and your last chance to give input into our neighborhood park. As always this is a family friendly event so bring your kids to see their future play space!

A great big thanks to Norris Design, Austin Parks Department, and Asakura Robinson for their hard work in conducting the community engagement meetings and creating a vision for the future of Highland Neighborhood Park and Reznicek Fields!
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Survey Available for Workshop #2!

We had an amazing presentation last week from Robert Deegan of Norris design. The presentation went through the first survey results and detailed two different concepts for our future park. The survey for Workshop #2 allows you to go through each element of the park program- the creek, playground layout, 1 large or 2 small pavilions, etc- and pick which you prefer. The survey also includes several questions on most and least preferred character of various park elements.

This survey will close February 26th, and is vitally important to give Norris Design and PARD the input they need to create the final draft that will be presented March 23, 6:30-8:00, at Reilly Elementary School. Please fill out the survey so that you can let them know how this park can best serve you! We won’t be able to advertise the survey in the newsletter like last time, so please tell your neighbors to go online and fill it out too!

The presentation and survey are available here. Norris Design and PARD have truly created a beautiful vision for our neighborhood park, so enjoy!


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Join Us Next Week for Master Planning Workshop #2!

PARD and Norris Design have begun developing a Master Plan that will guide future development of Highland Neighborhood Park and Reznicek Fields based upon your input from the previous workshop in November. Come to this second planning meeting to learn about the results from the survey and previous workshop and offer feedback on several design concepts that will be presented at the meeting.

Norris Design will make a presentation with the results and concepts, including the program for the park, such as size of playground, number of parking spaces, etc. Following the presentation there will have an open house forum similar to the first workshop, including a survey to get your feedback on the Master Plan concepts. On March 23rd the final draft of the Master Plan, including your feedback from this second input meeting, will be presented.

Please join us February 10th, 6:30-8pm at Reilly Elementary School, 405 Denson Dr, 78752. There will be a children’s table, so bring your kids and to see ideas for their future park!




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It’s My Park Day at Highland Neighborhood Park

Hi neighbors,

Friends of Highland Neighborhood Park will be leading our very first It’s My Park Day on Saturday March 5th. It’s My Park Day is a city wide volunteer event organized by the Austin Parks Foundation (APF) to improve our parks, and we are very excited to participate this year!

Volunteers needed!

Volunteers needed!

Highland Neighborhood Park is in need of a lot of TLC. The strip of heritage trees running through the center of the property is in bad shape. The Urban Forestry Department will be out in the next few weeks to trim dead wood and irregular stubs. They will also be trimming one tree in particular to clear the power line to the kickball field, but have met with us to discuss the pruning and will be taking as little as possible, with their priority being the tree. With ground compaction, pruning, and the heat in Austin, mulch makes a big difference to the health of the trees. PARD has said that we can help preserve the only natural shade on the property by mulching on It’s My Park Day.

The Forestry department has chosen 3 trees most in need, and we will be looking for 20 volunteers on March 5th for 3-4 hours sometime in the morning. In addition to volunteers we will also need 20 rakes, 20 shovels, and 10 wheel barrows. APF will lend us some tools for the day, but their supply is limited. This will be our first time to lead an event like this, so we need to get an idea of how many people are interested in participating, and how many tools people can commit to loaning for the project, even if you can’t come out yourself.

We’ll work on rounding up a coffee and breakfast donation from local businesses. Come out and join us for some fresh air, exercise, and socializing!

If you are interested in participating and/or bringing rakes, shovels, and wheelbarrows, please email

Thank you,

Marla Schmitz

Friends of Highland Neighborhood Park

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Master Planning Survey Online

On Tuesday November 17th, PARD, together with consultants Norris Design and Asakura Robinson, held the first public input master planning meeting for Highland Neighborhood Park and Reznicek Fields. We had a large turnout with over 50 residents of all ages. A huge thank you to all our volunteers who passed out fliers in the neighborhood to spread the word! Residents were really excited about a park in walking distance and the opportunities for this site, including increasing access using the trail along Waller Creek and 
the shady strip of trees running through the middle of the property. Special thanks to John Lawler with Councilmember Casar’s office for his attendance and interest in the project.
The chosen location – 401 W. St Johns – has been used as sports fields for several decades by the University Hills Optimists (UHO). Per the agreement between UHO and Highland, UHO will be able to continue their sports programming onsite on a 1.3 acre multi-use field that will utilize temporary fencing to allow neighborhood access when not in use by UHO. The new Highland Neighborhood Park, located centrally in Highland neighborhood, provides an amazing opportunity to have new equipment and features tailored to the wants and needs of a part of Austin severely lacking in park amenities. Everything onsite must be razed, so picture it as a blank slate and let us know what you imagine for its future!
After a presentation from Robert Deegan of Norris Designs there was an open house and short survey to understand the amenities and uses the community envisions. The slides from the presentation are available HERE. The site analysis in the presentation includes details about the trees on the property, but the legend is difficult to make out. Please note that the red circled trees are heritage trees and the blue trees are high quality trees. In the analysis you will see a large blue strip of shady high quality trees running through the center of the property between the two open fields.
This is the link to the SURVEY. PLEASE GO TO THE LINK AND FILL THE SURVEY OUT! It provides Norris Design with the information they need to create concepts for the park.
The survey closes December 6th, so, if you want your input to be a part of the new Highland Neighborhood Park, go fill it out now! 
The future meeting dates will be February 10th, 2016 and March 23, 2016, location TBD. There will be a childrens’ table at the meeting, so bring your kids and let us know what they want at the park. In February Norris design will present some different concepts based upon the survey results, which should be interesting and exciting! We’ll review and give feedback on those concepts and meet again in March to review the Draft Master Plan. When you fill out the survey you can sign up for updates. You can also subscribe to the HNA park website using tabs at the top of the page to get updates from us.
I’ll be speaking at the December HNA meeting so come to hear a little more about the current activity on site and future plans for the park, and stay to do a little shopping at the Blue Genie Arts Bazaar. The Marchesa Hall, host of our HNA meetings, holds this art bazaar which features local and regional artists with unique and amazing Christmas gifts, and we have the good fortune of being able to walk out of our meeting room straight into the free market.
See you there! (And fill out the survey!) 
Marla Schmitz
Friends of Highland Neighborhood Park
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Master Planning Meeting Tomorrow- Kids Welcome!

Tomorrow is the big day! Our first master planning meeting to give ideas on what you would like to see at the park. Norris Design’s talented staff will turn your ideas into park designs that will be refined at the February meeting.

Join us tomorrow, November 17th, 6:30pm at Reilly Elementary, 405 Denson. There will be a table with kids activities, so bring them along! I know school nights can be difficult, but we need to hear from the parents in our community, so bring your kids and just stay as long as you are able.


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Master Planning Meeting NEXT TUESDAY!

Just one week until the first of 3 master planning meetings to design our new neighborhood park! Join us Tuesday, Nov. 17th from 6:30-8 at Reilly Elementary, 405 Denson. This meeting is an amazing opportunity to give your input into an amenity that will improve the quality of life for the residents of Highland neighborhood and all of North Central Austin. We look forward to seeing you there and hearing what you envision for the future of Highland Neighborhood Park and Reznicek Fields!parkflier

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Save the Date! First Master Planning Meeting November 17th

The ball is rolling for master planning Highland Neighborhood Park! Norris Design, the master planning consultant, will hold the first of three community meetings Tuesday, November 17th, 6:30-8 at Reilly Elementary. The format will be an open house with the goal of listening to what the community would like to see at the park. This meeting will be followed with another in February presenting initial concepts and getting feedback, and a final meeting in March to refine the concepts.

We will be posting here and on the listserve, Facebook, and Nextdoor closer to the meeting date. We would also like to pass out a one page meeting notification flier door to door to get as much involvement as possible from the neighborhood. If you would like to volunteer to deliver to a street in Highland please email me (Marla) at with your name, address, phone, and the street or streets you would like to deliver to. Based on newsletters it should only take no more than 20 minutes per street. We need your help in letting all our neighbors know about the meetings.

If you have a chance before the meeting, go visit the site and imagine what you would like to see. Summer has brought many wonderful changes for the park. Much of the fencing and some of the dugouts have been removed from the north field, leaving a wide open space for us to run and play, and greatly opening up the space surrounding the trees. A portable restroom has been placed on site and  PARD will be installing some picnic benches and trash receptacles. The HNA has officially adopted the park as Friends of Highland Neighborhood Park and opened an account with the Austin Parks Foundation, allowing tax free donations online or by mail.

Our very first deposit was a $2000 check courtesy of Highland resident Timothy Schwader and his company Capital CDC, a non profit which facilitates small business loans and encourages economic development. Through the City of Austin cost share program, Capital CDC’s $2000 grant will grow to $6,667, helping provide amenities at the park when master planning is completed. We are so grateful to Capital CDC for their interest and generosity!  Capital CDC Supports New Community Park. The grant was presented at the July 4th picnic, and it was quite a celebration with a keg donated by Blackstar Coop and enough free pizza to feed the whole neighborhood generously provided by Texas Pizza, Pasta, and More, located in the Highland Village.

The park is looking more and more like a neighborhood amenity, so go check it out for yourself!  This is a HUGE opportunity to build a brand new park in the urban core in an area particularly lacking in park amenities. Come out November 17th and tell us about the park of your dreams!

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