Council Approves a PARK for Highland!!!

Council just passed CM Kathie Tovo and Chris Riley’s resolutions to accept  the PARD recommendation for a park at 401 W St Johns, and to consider funding master planning in the 2015 budget.

You all did this with your support, writing emails, signing petitions, attending meeting after meeting! Thank you Highland for keeping up the fight this last year! A huge thank you to all the members of the park committee who have volunteered countless hours to this cause!

We’ll keep you up to date as we begin the campaign for funding when budget discussions begin in August. For now, celebrate! WE’RE GETTING A PARK!!!

Marla Schmitz 
Chair Highland Neighborhood Park Committee

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Council vote for a Park for Highland THIS THURSDAY June 26th

This Thursday is a very important day for the future of a Park for Highland - after 1 year of neighborhood advocacy City Council is taking action!

On June 26th, two resolutions are being voted on:

  • Kathy Tovo is introducing a resolution to approve the PARD recommendation that 401 W. St Johns become a neighborhood park – this is huge!
  • Chris Riley is introducing another resolution to include master planning for the park as an item for consideration in the 2015 budget. IF this fails, we need to wait until 2018(!) to get City funding for the park.

What we need: Go to City Hall sometime before the meeting on Thursday June 26th and sign your support for resolutions 71 and 81 on the kiosks in the lobby

No need to wait around for the item to come up, no public speaking, just walk into City Hall, find a free Kiosk, and register your support.

City Hall is open 7:45am to 7pm, and parking in the garage on Lavaca is free for 30 min. Once you are there it only takes a few minutes to sign your name and vote to support Council agenda items 71 and 81. I know it’s a hassle to get downtown, but your vote lets Council know that our park need should be addressed now, not 4 years from now.

Please make every effort to get to City Hall this week, tell your friends and neighbors, and ask anyone you know who works downtown to take a few minutes to support these resolutions.

Thank you!!!

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Park Board Recommends a Park for Highland!

On the one year anniversary of the formation of the Highland Neighborhood Park Committee we are pleased to announce that on May 27th the Park Board approved a recommendation that 401 W. St Johns become a neighborhood park (YAY!).

This recommendation will be presented to City Council at a meeting sometime in August for their approval.

The Board recommends the 6 acre park include:

  • almost 4 acres for neighborhood amenities
  • a 1.3 acre multi-use field, relocated to the northern end of the property (out of the only strip of trees)
  • UHO will have priority use of the multi-use field for kickball, soccer, T ball and Coach Pitch (92% of their programming)
  • Ball fields will use temporary fencing (leaving field open to neighborhood outside of UHO games)
  • older kids baseball will be absorbed by Delwood Little League at Bartholomew Park
  • one acre of site for storm water management pond
  • baseball fences on northern end will come down beginning July 2014, providing 2.5 acres of open space to the neighborhood

The next step is to get City Council to approve a one time $100,000 expense to pay for the master planning process in August.

If anyone out there has grant writing/fundraising experience or any know how with writing an ask for City Council PLEASE let me know!

Highland has shown amazing energy and support this last year!

A 6 acre park sized thank you to Charlotte Peiffer de Garza, my vice-chair (only because she refused the title of co-chair while doing at least half the work). You rock!!!!

Marla Schmitz
Chair Highland Neighborhood Park Committee

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The Compromise: A Win For Highland and UHO

On April 22nd, PARD presented their final recommendation for 401 W. St. Johns to the Parks Board. Their recommendation dedicated the majority of the site to UHO fields and parking, leaving the neighborhood 2.4 acres for park development.

HNA Park Committee presented our own recommendation, with UHO having priority use of a 1.3 acre multi-use sports field with collapsible fencing, which would allow them to continue over 80% of their program at the site. Outside of their games, the fences would be gone, and the field available to the neighborhood. The rest of the 6 acre property? A park. The board asked PARD, UHO, and HNA to meet one more time to discuss this compromise.

This meeting happened May 13th, and UHO agreed to HNA’s recommendation. PARD will now present this as their final recommendation to the Parks & Rec board on May 27th. We expect the Park Board to agree and then send the recommendation on to City Council. This compromise was a huge success for Highland neighborhood! Thank you to the many, many people who have helped the cause and supported a Park for Highland!

At the June 3rd HNA meeting we will present the outcome of the May 27th Park Board meeting. We hope to see you there! If you can’t be at the HNA meeting visit aparkforhighland.org and subscribe for updates.

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Come out 4/22 to support the Park!

The Park Board meeting is less than a week away. We really need Highlanders at City Hall to show community support for a park. The meeting is Tuesday night at 6pm, City Hall, 301 W. 2nd, parking garage entrance on Lavaca. Parking will be free for the meeting. UHO will be bringing their teams in uniforms. We need you there to show the Park Board that the park needs of Highland resident’s should be weighed over the wants of UHO.

The Parks department is recommending that Highland have 2 of the 6 acres of parkland for amenities and priority use for our 4500 residents and 700 kids. UHO is given priority use of the other 4 acres, including a 75 space parking lot, for 2 kickball fields to serve kickball, T ball and Coach pitch, and a 1.3 acre soccer field to serve the 26 participants and 2 socccer teams playing for 2013-2014. The recommendation denies Highland open space and amenities, despite multiple relocation options, community input, and the need for field repairs and repaving parking. Please come out to to tell the Park Board that Highland has a right to the use of our only open space. More info on City Hall.

Now is also a good time to tell City Council they need to be paying attention to this issue and Highland’s needs. Email City Council to let them know what you want for your neighborhood. The Highland Neighborhood Association is recommending the site be used solely for a stormwater pond and neighborhood park for multiple reasons including,

  • this is the only open space available for a park in Highland’s 4500 residents and 700 kids
  • relocation options exist for ALL UHO programs,
  • national recommendation for a neighborhood park is 5-10 acres and Austin norm for park size is 10 acres,
  • there are 2 other sports complexes with 20 acres of private fields within 1 mile of this site, including soccer, baseball, and football
  • numerous City Policies support a park on this site
  • Crestview and Highland Transit Oriented Development, Airport Blvd Redevelopment, and Highland ACC are projected to DOUBLE Highland’s population by 2030.

There is possibility for a compromise in which UHO is given priority use of a multipurpose field for two kickball fields with collapsible fencing, keeping 80% of UHO’s programming on site.

Email City Council to tell them whichever option you think is best for Highland, but please let them know that the current recommendation of 2 kickball fields and a soccer field remaining is unacceptable.

 

 

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Park Board Meeting Postponed until April 22nd

PARD will now be presenting their recommendation for the future use of 401 W. St. Johns to the Park Board on April 22nd. HNA and the Highland Neighborhood Park Committee requested the postponement, and are very grateful to the Chair of the Park Board and the Director of PARD for honoring our request. There are several points not included in the recommendation that need to be clarified before we felt that it could go before the Park Board. There will be updates in the coming weeks as we learn more information, and reminders that we need you at the April 22nd meeting.  We are very excited about this meeting (and the postponement) and hope you can be there to Support a Park for Highland!

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A Park for Highland needs you March 25th!

The Parks Dept. is recommending that 401 West St Johns be used for athletic sports and a PARK. They will be presenting this recommendation to the Park Board on March 25th, 6pm at City Hall. Mark your calendar because we need YOU there! This could be the only public meeting before city council decides.

They recommend keeping a soccer field, the two kickball fields for kickball, T ball, and coach pitch baseball, and relocating middle school and high school baseball to Delwood Sports Complex at Bartholomew Park. Sadly, Delwood could not accommodate all of UHO’s programs, which would have been a win-win for all.

The goal is to use the space to fill the greatest community need. Kickball makes up 80% of UHO’s programs, so the site would serve the majority of UHO’s programs and provide the walkable park our 4500 residents desperately need. The Park Committee thinks that keeping the two kickball fields and the 50 parking places they require is a generous compromise on such a small property, considering all of the programs have relocation options. The kickball fields must be moved to the north west side of the property so the park can be designed around the one and only strip of trees and natural shade.

We do not think a soccer field here serves the community’s needs.The UHO team currently has 26 participants and did not offer soccer last Spring, yet we would be sacrificing space for a field and the additional 25 parking places it requires when the program can be relocated to Roy G Guerrero Park, or the kids absorbed by several other soccer programs in the area.

We are grateful to Kim McNeeley and Cheryl Bolin from the Parks department for the months of hard work they have given to Highland and UHO to find a compromise.

Watershed said they would expand the pond to allow laid back vegetated side slopes and a wooden split rail fence. We are THRILLED that the pond will be more aesthetically pleasing and are so grateful to Mike Kelly and Watershed for listening to Highland’s concerns.

We still need everyone at the park board meeting March 25th to support this recommendation, and to let them know our concerns about keeping soccer.

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City Park Forum Closing

Tomorrow, Dec 31st, is your last day to vote and comment on the Speak Up Austin forum regarding the St Johns property and a Park for Highland.  http://speakupaustin.org/forums/community-conversation-401-w-st-johns-avenue

At the December 4th meeting we learned that the perimeter ditches could be enlarged to prevent flooding of the residences around the property. Two houses on Swanee flooded a few months ago in heavy rainfall. Please speak up for your neighbors and comment asking that the ditches be enlarged. This should be the highest priority for Highland and for the City.

The property on St. Johns is too small to serve three functions as storm water management, a park, and sports facilities. The initial recommendation by PARD for the kickball and baseball programs to stay with at least 2 diamonds would give Highland 25-35% of the property, based on guesstimates by PARD at the meeting. However, UHO leadership stated that a minimum of 4 fields would be required to continue those programs.
To open more park space UHO has proposed paving neighborhood green space, and watershed stated they were open to this at the meeting. Please weigh in on whether or not you want neighborhood green space paved to accommodate UHO parking.

This 7.3 a city owned property is the only suitable open space in Highland for a park. UHO relocation of all programs to the 57 acre Bartholomew Park provides an opportunity for the kids of UHO to continue playing, and Highland neighborhood to have adequate parkland to serve our growing community of over 4500 residents, including over 700 kids, along with the space to address the flooding and ground water pollution of this area. To try and use this small space to accomplish all of these things would mean doing all of them inadequately. UHO provides a valuable service to the youth of Austin, but they are primarily accessed by car, and moving to Bartholomew park would actually place the fields closer to, or be the same distance for, the majority of the participants. Highland has no place else to go for a neighborhood park, and storm water management be done on Waller Creek.

Please vote on Speak Up Austin for a Park for Highland

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The December Input Meeting Outcome

Park Meeting Dec. 4th

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To sum the meeting, to vote for sharing is to vote for our neighborhood to have an inadequate sized park for our dense growing population so that UHO does not have to relocate to the 57 acre Bartholomew park, or one of the other relocation options. The sharing option, which is PARD’s initial recommendation for the site, would keep baseball and kickball, and soccer would relocate. This is PARD’s preliminary recommendation based on speakupaustin.org votes being almost tied for sharing and relocation. This would give Highland 25-35% of property if UHO can continue these programs on 2 baseball fields, and putting up and taking down collapsible kickball fences when kickball plays. UHO says they can’t run these two programs on 2 fields, however PARD’s initial recommendation is regarding the programs, not the number of fields. Highland could also agree to putting a parking lot in front of the residences on Northcrest to add less than one acre of parkland on site.

Because both UHO leadership and Highland neighbors had issues with this sharing arrangement, and there was difficulty figuring out how much space the fields would take and how many fields there would be, another community meeting will be added sometime after the New Year.

The Highland Neighborhood Park Committee has voted to support the option of using the entire 7 acre tract as a neighborhood park with storm water pond, and relocating University Hills Optimists sports program. Based upon what we learned from the December 4th meeting, UHO’s relocation options, national recommendations for park size, Highland’s population, our increasing density, proximity to Transit Oriented Development, the park deficiency in Highland and North Central Austin, the possibility of preventing residential flooding by enlarging the perimeter ditch, and desire to leave neighborhood open space unpaved, the Park Committee has determined that the whole tract becoming a park and storm water pond will serve the needs of the most people, including Highland, North Central Austin, the UHO kids who will continue to play, and Austin in general.

So what now?

If you have not voted on https://austintexas.granicusideas.com/forums/community-conversation-401-w-st-johns-avenue please do so. We all need to be counted for our voice to be heard. You can also vote by calling 311. If your neighbors aren’t on the list serve let them know.

 If you voted for sharing and think that Highland deserves more than 25-35% of the only City owned open space in our neighborhood, you can change your vote by clicking the vote again to remove it.

 

Below is a brief summary of the meeting, but a more in depth one follows which I encourage you to read. The map above shows the relocation options, the baseball fields in Austin, and the distribution of UHO participants The majority of UHO kids (53%) that live in Austin will either be closer to fields at the 57 acre Bartholomew Park, or about the same distance they are now from Reznicek Fields.

WATERSHED:

  •  Enlarging the ditches and taking more of the property will prevent flooding of the residences bordering the creek. Tell Speakupaustin.org to enlarge the ditch so our neighbors houses don’t flood!
  • From a water quality standpoint parking could be moved to Northcrest on the other side of St JohnsTell speakupaustin.org that our neighborhood doesn’t want to pave green space with the potential to beautify our neighborhood, and our residents don’t want a parking lot in front of their house so that UHO doesn’t have to relocate to a 57 acre park!

PARD

  • Relocation options to move ALL PROGRAMS to the 57 acre Bartholomew Park on 51st and Berkman, and either divide the 6 fields between UHO and Delwood Little League, or become one organization at Delwood
  • Move Baseball and Kickball to Butler Park and Soccer to Roy G. Guerrero
  • Share property with UHO keeping BOTH BASEBALL AND KICKBALL, relocating soccer, and requiring 25 parking spaces per diamond, in addition to parking needed for various amenities at park.
  • Sharing with park, pond, and kickball and baseball is initial recommendation of Pard based on almost equal votes on speakupaustin.org for sharing and relocation.
  • PARD thinks this could be done with two baseball fields, leaving the neighborhood 25-35% of the space
  • UHO said programs would need 4 fields, one parent on speakupaustin.org says 3 fields. Each additional field will require another 25 parking spaces
  • PARD says the fields would prevent crime because only the parking lot can be seen from the road A great number of parks in Austin can’t be seen from the road, don’t have sports organizations on them, and don’t have the additional surveillance of backyards overlooking them on 4 sides. The  litter, overgrowth, and lack of maintenance of fields have been one of the main factors encouraging the crime recorded in the seventy-eight 911 calls in the last 10 years

UHO

  • Leadership says they need all the fields, we could use the large field on Sundays, baseball program runs from Feb- end October, Kickball from mid Jan to July 15th, soccer needs large field 2 nights a week in November.
  • Dogs will not be allowed on Fields
  • UHO parents state that relocation would change the culture of the program, and that St Johns’ kids like having access to fields so nearbyBartholomew park is the same distance from St Johns, 49% of the kids in kickball that live in Austin would be closer to the fields if moved to Bartholomew, 7% about the same distance (those from St Johns), for baseball 35% would be closer and at least 14% would be the same distance

In more detail . . .

WATERSHED

  • Watershed said the City land on Northcrest across St Johns could be used for UHO parking from a water quality standpoint to open up park space, and have a nice parking lot with a crushed granite path and trees
  • A neighbor who lives in front of this property said she did not want a parking lot there

This is a small piece of neighborhood green space with trees planted by Highland neighborhood that was used previously by the neighborhood to walk dogs. The Park Committee has been speaking with City Staff regarding moving the equipment stored there and will continue to work to do. This piece of property is another opportunity to beautify the neighborhood with green space rather than creating parking.

  •  UHO also stated that they do not overflow park in the neighborhood and no one attending had personal knowledge to contradict this.
  • Watershed said that the two houses that border the creek flooded a few months ago due to debris and overhanging limbs in the creek. They have planned a new maintenance schedule to help this, but, even with increased maintenance, in heavy rains the properties could flood again.
  • When questioned, Watershed said that increasing the size of the ditch would help prevent flooding, but would take more space.

PARD

  • PARD presented the relocation options for UHO
  1.  UHO’s entire program and board could be relocated to the 57 acre Bartholomew Park. They would share the facilities with Dellwood Little League and divide the 6 fields. All programs could continue but would require scheduling for both organizations
  2. UHO’s entire program could be relocated to the 57 acre Bartholomew Park and form one organization with Delwood.

Park Committee member Charlotte Garza spoke to the President of Dellwood Little League regarding this option prior to the meeting. She stated they could take all of UHO’s programs,“that is what the fields are there for”, and that they don’t know how to run a soccer and kickball program so would need to be shown how, leaving opportunity for kickball and soccer volunteers to continue to work with the kids. We expect that increasing a baseball program by 150 kids would also mean a need for more volunteers and coaches

      3.  UHO baseball and kickball program relocates to Butler Park and soccer relocates to Roy G. Guerrero Park

  •  PARD made a preliminary recommended of sharing the tract based upon speakupaustin.org votes (50ish sharing to 60ish relocation as of that night)
  • They recommended keeping BOTH BASEBALL AND KICKBALL programs at Reznicek Fields and relocating soccer. This would require 25 parking spots for each diamond, plus spots per amenity depending on what amenities are chosen for the site.
  • PARD thinks this can be done with 2 diamonds, but, when questioned, clarified that the sharing recommendation was for the 2 programs, not for a number of fields.
  • UHO leadership said they need 4 fields, a UHO parent on speakupaustin.org believes they could keep both programs with 3 diamonds.
  • PARD also said they site would benefit from keeping the fields by increasing activity on site to prevent crime, and because of the unique situation of being unable to see the park from the roadThe “unique situation” is an open space being unmaintained, littered, and overgrown. UHO’s upkeep of the property around the fields, regardless of whether they were required to do so in their contract, has created an environment welcoming to criminals. The overflowing trash, large holes in the parking lot, overgrown vegetation, discarded construction equipment, and cracked buildings send a message to criminals that no one care about this space. This has resulted in multiple assaults, drug use, prostitutes, and homeless camping on the site.The property is bordered on 4 sides by backyards, and the front parking lot can be seen from St. Johns and Northcrest, where a stop light also allows cars sitting there to have a longer view of the property than those driving by. This is greater surveillance than many of the parks in Austin which can not be seen from the road and are not surrounded by residences.

 Organized sports can decrease crime by increasing use of a park, but they are not necessary. The elements needed to decrease crime in a neighborhood are to have a park designed with the residents to attract frequent use, and that space be clean and well maintained. This site has been the opposite of clean and maintained for many years, and just having a park will greatly decrease crime on the property.

While we do not attribute the crime to the UHO users, but rather sporadic use of the fields and the condition of the property, UHO participants and spectators have themselves been the cause of at least three 911 calls on the property, including a stabbing this past May.

The Park Committee and many of the neighbors believe that keeping the fields to prevent crime is an invalid reason to sacrifice park space, and thereby park users- the main deterrents to crime.

MARLA SCHMITZ, Chair of Highland Neighborhood Park Committee

  • Want to create a natural green environment with space for the amenities to serve our 4500 residents of all ages and abilities, including 700 kids,
  • A park that attracts families, creates a stronger community, and provides physical and mental benefits to the residents of our dense neighborhood and all of North Central Austin who live in an area deficient in parkland, particularly for those in apartments, condos, and homes with small yards
  • We can discuss moving the kickball fields or soccer fields, but there is a great size constraint on this property, and baseball fields in particular are too large to share use on this small site
  • Our hope is that UHO parents and participants will consider the relocation options, especially that of moving to the 57 acre Batholomew park where all of their programs can continue together so that our neighborhood can have what remains of these 7 acres after the storm water pond to create a park of adequate size for our neighborhood.

 

MR. REZNICEK

  •  presented a proposal for UHO remaining, moving the East parking lot to the other side of St Johns with spots for 90 cars to open up the current parking area as parkland.
  • Adding walking path from Croslin to Swanee and pedestrian bridgeWe are already asking for this in a park per the results from our neighborhood park survey
  • Said UHO needs all 4 fields for kickball and baseball
  • Kickball fields will be available for public use from July 15th to middle of January.
  • Large field can be available all day Sunday, unless there is a tournament
  • All fields available for 4th of July Picnic, except every 4-8 years for tournament
  • Baseball fields are used from February to the end of October
  • Soccer needs field 2 nights per week in November
  • Dogs not permitted in/on fields
  • “Personnel gates to fenced ball fields should be kept equipted with self closing gates to keep stray animals out. All other gates shall be kept locked with both CofA/PARD and UHO locks to allow each to do maintenance”
  • UHO to be in charge of all buildings, HNA may arrange for use of meeting room
  • Current toilets are not fireproofed and shall not be available to public unless they are made so

 

Facilitator then called on UHO PARENTS FOR INPUT

  • It is easy for Highland to say they should just relocate
  • To change locatoins would change the culture of the programs
  • Conflict would happen if two organizations had to share fields at BartholomewConflict would also occur when an extremely large neighborhood shares a space that is of inadequate size for their residents
  • A UHO parent who lives in St Johns also said having the fields here is a great benefit to her child and the 48% of UHO Participants from St JohnsAt least 50 of UHOs 406 participants come from St Johns, or 12% of their participants. That is excluding from the 78752 the 8 children from Highland who have been reported to us through the website. The total count of 406 includes repeats for any child who plays more than one program. If a child plays fall and spring basebball they will be counted twice. The 48% figure comes from adding in the numbers for RBI, a baseball program who illegally sublet from UHO for one season this past summer when invited there by UHO.

FACILITOR STATED THAT BECAUSE NO RESOLUTION WAS REACHED, THERE WOULD BE ANOTHER COMMUNITY INPUT MEETING, LIKLEY AFTER THE NEW YEAR

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Reminder Park Input Meeting December 4th !!!!

Hey Neighbors,

The final park input meeting is tomorrow night, December 4th, 6:30pm at Reilly Elementary. This is the last chance to tell City Staff that we want a park before they make a recommendation to City Council in January.  We had a great showing at the November input meeting, and are expecting UHO to increase their showing in response. Please do your best to come out to the meeting. There are multiple reminders in the HNA newsletter, but tell your neighbors to make sure they are aware. We are in the home stretch, and Highland needs your support!

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