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

zip-codes

 

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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Update November 14th Input Meeting

Hey Neighbors,

We had a great meeting November 14th with PARD, Watershed, UHO and Highland. We learned a lot about the site and are looking forward to learning more and sitting down together at the December 4th meeting. This is a really long update, but there are only two of these meetings, and there was a great deal of information shared by the participants and PARD and Watershed. Thank you to all who attended to support our community.

 Thank you

Marla Schmitz

Chair Highland Neighborhood Park Committee

What happened at the meeting . . .

The first of two community input meetings was held November 14th at Reilly Elementary. At this meeting Highland residents had the opportunity to hear from the UHO parents and leadership, and we look forward to meeting with them at the December 4th input meeting. Both UHO and Highland neighbors were positive and spoke of working together. Highland Neighborhood Park Committee is committed to UHO’s kids continuing to play sports. Our goal is to find a solution in which all UHO’s children and Highland’s 700 children and 4500 residents have a place to play, and hope that UHO will consider options that make this possible.

The input meeting began with people telling the group what the property means to them. UHO volunteers and parents repeatedly spoke of what they and their children have gained from UHO’s sports programs. Highland neighbors repeatedly called the property an OPPORTUNITY to give our residents a safe place to play, walk dogs, and enjoy nature, and a place where neighbors can gather for events, birthday parties, and to make friends within our community. Many people, both from UHO and Highland residents, said that when UHO is playing it is a place filled with cheering and children. However, outside the sports seasons and when there isn’t practice or a game, i.e. every weekday and for months out of the year, neighbors sees a place littered with trash, poorly maintained, overgrown, and with fences that make the property unwelcoming to the our neighbors, but inviting to criminals. Many people spoke of not being comfortable walking on the property day or night due to these conditions, and of wanting the fences removed.

Watershed and Parks and Rec(PARD) then spoke on a panel and were asked questions by the community. Mike Kelly from Watershed expressed his regret that the neighborhood wasn’t involved in the filtration pond plans and described the current one, which includes 4 foot limestone walls in the SW corner of the property and a chain length fence around it due to steep slopes. He said that other fencing options were possible, but that these would require more laid back slopes and take more space. He also stated later by email that UHO’s sharing proposal- putting a park on their current parking lot and covering the ditches across St Johns on Northcrest to make new parking, would be “no small feat” due to cost (>$500K), possible flooding upstream because pipes drain less water than ditches, and a City Council resolution that prohibits piping ditches that drain into creeks the size of Waller Creek.

Kim McNeeley from PARD then spoke about how all youth sports organization contracts are being revamped to have better criteria for maintenance, and PARD is examining how fields can be better used, like combining groups on properties so they can share maintenance and fields. She also said that UHO has an allowance of ~$4300 per field annually in utilities. Ms McNeeley said they HAVE RELOCATION OPTIONS for all of UHOs programs and will present them at the December meeting. They also said neighborhood parks range from 2 to 30 acres, and this property would have about 5 useable acres after the pond is made.

Mr Reznicek and I were unable to speak as planned due to time constraints, so I would like to address a few things here.

SHARING: As far as space, national standards set a minimum of 5 acres for neighborhood parks, more in dense neighborhoods like Highland. Median park size in Austin is 10 acres, and most parks are significantly larger than the 2 acre minimum stated by PARD. There is less than a half acre sandwiched between the fields, so smaller than the Dorothy Johns Triangle, but in one long strip that includes bleachers. A neighborhood park can not be made on the property with UHO fields remaining as they are now, there just isn’t enough space.  Any discussion of sharing must take this fact into account, THERE IS NO NEIGHBORHOOD PARK IF UHO KEEPS THE SAME NUMBER AND SIZE OF FIELDS. Mr Reznicek also told one of our park committee members after the meeting that fences must be kept around the kickball fields due to league rules.

CRIME: Some neighbors also expressed fear that crime on the property would increase with a park rather than fields. There were seventy-eight 911 calls for 401 W St Johns in the last 10 years, including assault, drugs, and homeless sleeping in the creeks and the dugouts. The American Planning Association has compiled a large amount of research showing that parks and urban green spaces decrease crime, but that maintenance is key. A clean, well maintained park used year round, rather than seasonally, increases foot traffic and surveillance, and creates social ties that lead to safer neighborhoods. Creating a park at 401 W. St. Johns is actually the key to making the property safe!

PARTICIPANT NUMBERS: The fact sheet given out at the meeting included the information about how many kids UHO serves. It stated 659 participants in 2012/2013, 81% from Austin and 43% from 78752. These figures all include the 250 kids that played there this last summer from RBI, an organization separate from UHO that brings sports to underserved youth. This group partners with PARD to use multiple fields in town for their baseball program. They played at Reznicek Field this last summer when invited by a UHO participant. They did not receive permission from PARD, and UHO sublet the field in violation of their lease. RBI’s program has multiple fields on which to play, and their 250 kids are not a part of the UHO program. At the December meeting PARD will update us on the number of kids in the UHO’s program, how many come from 78752, and how many come from Highland. The participant information sheet given by UHO states 406 participants, but that allows for players in spring and fall baseball to be counted twice.

I will be at the Dec HNA meeting during the 6:30-7pm social and would love to answer questions about the park and the research that we have done regarding the various options.

The city has set up a website to gather community input regarding the property http://speakupaustin.org/forums/community-conversation-401-w-st-johns-avenue . This website gives the opportunity to vote for the 4 options that the city is exploring. I would like to encourage people to use the comment box “What ideas do you have for the future use of this property?” We learned a lot at the last input meeting, and look forward to learning more at the December meeting, including what are feasible sharing options and what UHO’s relocation options are. These are both essential pieces of information needed to decide how this property can serve the community, both Highland neighborhood and the participants of UHO.

Please come out in December to include your opinion in the report the city manager files with City Council Jan 15th.. We don’t know when City Council will vote, but we need everyone at that meeting. Subscribe to aparkforhighland.org to stay up to date and so you will know when you are needed at city council to support a park in what could be the heart of Highland.

 

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Hello Highland!

 

Community Meetings regarding a Park for Highland scheduled!

The two community meetings to give input to the City regarding the future of 401 West St Johns have been scheduled!
Thursday November 14th and Wednesday December 4th, 6:30pm at Reilly Elementary Cafeteria, 405 Denson
These are our two opportunities to tell City Staff that we want a PARK at 401 West St Johns before they make their presentation and recommendation to City Council on January 16th. We need ALL OF YOU there!!!
Hopefully, everyone has received their flyer from the City. You may have just recycled it because it said “St Johns Community Conversations” and “recreation/facilities”, without any mention of the words HIGHLAND or PARK. While I’m sure it was not meant to be misleading, Highland residents who are not aware of the park effort may not have understood that the flyer was calling for their input regarding the possibility of a Park for Highland. Changing the use of this property to a park will have a hugely positive effect on the connectedness, aesthetics, crime statistics, and physical and mental well being of the Highland Community. Please talk to your neighbors, carpool, offer your elderly neighbors a ride, do whatever you can to get yourself and others to these meetings! Every voice counts, and making yourselves heard is the only way we are going to get the City to stand up for the needs of our neighborhood.
Remember:
  • This is the only City owned open space in Highland neighborhood suitable for a park .
  • North Central Austin, and Highland in particular, is lacking in parkland according to Austin Parks and Rec.
  • We already have 16 acres of private fields in our neighborhood on Lamar and Morrow.
  • Parks has found relocation options for the University Hills Optimists- including moving their ENTIRE SPORTS PROGRAM to North Austin Optimists 1.5 miles away.
See you there!
Marla Schmitz
Chair Highland Neighborhood Park Committee

 

The Resolution Passed!

This is wonderful news meaning that our neighborhood has a chance for a park.

I know many of you have watched the video and it was frustrating to see that we weren’t actually allowed to speak about a park or Highland, only about the “process” of the presentation. The good news is that we will have multiple opportunities to give input at the community meetings and the presentation scheduled January 15th. In the presentation the City Manager will report future options for the land at 401 W. St. Johns , 1)Storm water management only, 2) A park only, 3) Shared use with a park and UHO sports fields, and 4) Exclusive use of property for UHO sports fields.

City Council did make a change in the resolution.  The City Manager will now make the presentation regarding options for the property on January 15th rather than in October to make sure that all parties are able to fully participate in community meetings.  Instead of one, there will now be multiple community input meetings. UHO parents and coaches expressed concerns regarding being a part of the input process. Since they have contact lists for all of their registrants, they have a definite advantage over Highland regarding notification. We will be requesting that all HNA residences receive a mailed notice of the meeting schedule. We ask your participation at these meeting to give your input into which option for 401 W. St. Johns best serves the community

HNA, Highland Neighborhood Park Committee, and all of our neighborhood is so grateful to the neighbors who came out last night and sacrificed several hours to show support for a park for Highland. We are one step closer because of you.

The Resolution is happening!

A resolution regarding 401 West St Johns possibly becoming a park will be introduced to Austin City Council this coming Thursday, September 26th.

The resolution directs the City Manager to make a presentation to City Council at the Oct. 24th meeting regarding 4 options for the property. 1) Stormwater management only, 2) Convert the entire site to a park and relocating UHO, 3) UHO and Highland sharing the site, 4) UHO having exclusive use of the site.

Converting the entire site to a park and relocating UHO is the option recommended by Highland Neighborhood Park Committee and  HNA based upon multiple votes in the past several years.  The Parks department has found multiple options for UHO, including moving their entire program to North Austin Optimists just 1.5 miles away. This would allow the creation of a park of adequate size for our densely populated and growing community, and would enable the UHO children to continue playing together. We have created a Resolution page to give you more details on the options and on why the park committee and HNA support converting the entire site to a park.

Highland needs your support by:

1. Calling each City Council member to tell them you support the resolution regarding 401 W. St. Johns and UHO relocation for a park 
2. Emailing City Council to let them know why you personally want a park.

Some ideas of what to say are listed below, but it is important that these emails be personalized to put a face on our neighborhood. Tell them about how you and your family will use a park, how you think this will benefit our community, how far you currently travel to get to a good neighborhood park, whether you can walk there, or even memories of a park you could walk to in your own childhood and how that shaped your development.

  • Our neighborhood currently has 2 private sports fields, no neighborhood park, and no other open space on which to create a park
  • Our neighborhood is dense, urban and growing. We have over 4225 residents, of which 700 are children, and over 300 are retirees. We would all benefit from a park. Plans for Highland Mall, the Crestview Station TOD, Crestview City Homes, and Airport Boulevard continue to increase Highland’s density and our need for community open space.
  • Park benefits include strengthening community, creating social ties between neighbors, decreased crime, increased physical activity, and decreased childhood obesity.
  • The only community space for our 4225 residents is a 0.5 acre pocket park. St Johns sits right in the center of our neighborhood making it an ideal location to create a community in Highland, helping our neighbors to get to know one another
  • Parks play a crucial role in attracting and keeping families in the city
  • The majority of Highland residents fall outside of the 2010 City Council goal that all residents in Austin’s urban core will live within ¼ mile safe walk to a park. Most live ½ mile or more from the nearest parks, and those parks are not accessible on school days

We also need support at the October 24th meeting for the presentation if this resolution passes. We will give you more details on this as the date approaches and we know more.

If you have not signed a written petition or the online petition, please do so. ONLY SIGN ONE PETITION- WRITTEN OR ONLINE- AND INCLUDE YOUR ADDRESS IN THE COMMENT SECTION

City Council Meeting Update 8/24

The resolution regarding a park at 401 W. St Johns is NOT on the agenda for the Aug 29th City Council meeting as we had expected. We will be speaking to Kathie Tovo’s office this week to find out when they anticipate this will happen, and if there is any update on the wording of the resolution.

The extra time gives us an opportunity to discuss the park and plan for the City Council meeting at the next HNA meeting. If you would like to be a part of this discussion please come to the HNA meeting Tues Sept 3rd, Social 6:30pm, Meeting 7:00pm at Gateway Baptist Church.

If you would like to take action now to support A Park for Highland, and all parks in Austin, “Great Austin Parks” coalition is urging us to contact city council in support of increased park funding in Austin. This will be coming up in the City Council Budget meeting Sept 3rd. Austin falls far behind in several national benchmarks for park funding.

We have now met with all of the City Council offices regarding A Park for Highland and multiple offices asked questions regarding funding for a park.  Of greatest concern will be the maintenance costs that will continue long after the park is built. We were able to speak of the steps we have taken so far in researching private fundraising for a neighborhood park, but this initiative will help to address this deficit.  If you would like to read more about the park funding initiative see http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2013-08-16/austin-parks-trying-to-fill-the-gap/ .

You can email city council in support of increased park funding at http://austintexas.gov/mail/all-council-members, and here is a list of city council phone numbers http://austintexas.gov/contact-us

  Email from Richard Craig of “Great Austin Parks”

I want to reach out to you concerning an initiative, a number of us park advocates are putting forward this summer to try to get PARD’s budget increased.The group is made up of the Austin Parks Foundation, Trail Foundation, Keep Austin Beautiful, Tree Folks, Pease Park Conservancy, and the Shoal Creek Conservancy. We are asking the City Council to increase the Parks Dept. budget by 4.75 million dollars (roughly 8%) over last year’s budget. The group’s mantra is this initiative is “Trees, Trails, Pools, and Basic Maintenance. Let’s take care of what we have.”
It has been up to neighborhood groups of concerned citizens to take on repairs and basic care of too many of our parks as PARD’s funding is cut again and again in bad times and never gets fully restored in good economic cycles.
For instance, Austin Forestry Dept. had 28 full time employees to care for roughly 6,000 acres of park land in 1992. In 2012, Forestry just had 24 full time employees for over 19,000 acres. Austin is in the bottom one-third of major American cities in what we spend on park maintenance (operations). This is according to the Trust for Public Land (City Parks Facts booklet-2012). You can see our City Park Score on their website and compare it to other cities.
This is all shocking for a city that considers itself a leader on the environment. I feel that we have all collectively been asleep at the switch not to have raised this issue sooner. But, we are going to try to turn it around this year in the 2013-2014 City budgets that will be adopted in September.
We are encouraging people to write, email, or call the Mayor and City Council about this in the lead up to the budget hearing in September. But, we would especially like HNA to consider adopting a resolution of support.

Major Update to City Plans for Park Process 8/1

There has been a significant change of plans from the city. There will no longer be stakeholder meetings. Instead, Council Member Kathie Tovo will introduce a resolution regarding the park at the City Council Agenda Meeting on either August 22nd or August 29th. This resolution will state the direction that the city will take in renewing UHO’s lease or relocating them for a park. There will then be a public hearing at the meeting before City Council regarding the resolution.

In preparing this resolution, CM Kathie Tovo is meeting with Austin Parks department this coming Monday to discuss the property. Parks has relayed to Ms Tovo that there has been about 50/50 support for keeping and relocating UHO. This figure does not reflect the 2003 Highland Neighborhood Plan, the multiple previous votes by HNA to relocate the UHO in favor of a park and pond, or the support that a park has received as reflected by our petitions and surveys.

The park committee is asking for you to call or email Kim McNeeley, Assistant Director for Parks and Recreation, before Monday morning to let her know that you support relocating UHO for a neighborhood park. Contacting her during business hours tomorrow would be best, but emails and phone calls waiting in her inbox Monday morning would also be helpful. Her phone number is 512-974-6722 and her email address is kimberly.mcneeley@austintexas.gov.

We have added an online petition to enlist the support of those who have not had the opportunity to sign a written petition. If you have not signed the written one, please sign the online petition by Sunday night. We will be giving CM Tovo’s office the number of signatures that we have on Monday morning, prior to the meeting. These signatures are evidence that our neighborhood does overwhelmingly support relocating the UHO for a neighborhood park for our 4225 residents, including over 700 children. You can sign the petition here http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/highland-neighborhood-park-petition/. PLEASE ONLY SIGN ONE PETITION, EITHER THE WRITTEN OR ONLINE, AND INCLUDE YOUR ADDRESS IN THE COMMENT SECTION WHEN SIGNING THE PETITION.

We will continue collecting petition signatures until the public hearing at the end of August. The public hearing will take place on a Thursday, meaning that many of the park supporters will be unable to attend due to work. The petitions will be our greatest and loudest statement of the neighborhood’s desire for a park. We are still looking for more petition volunteers to get signatures throughout the neighborhood. The park signs and the door to door petitions are the most effective ways to reach the greatest number of our residents. If you do not have a park sign, please send in a sign request so that we can spread the word.

The park committee would like to extend a great big THANK YOU to the petition volunteers who have braved the heat these last few weeks to add the support of those who aren’t online or on the listserves. There are literally hundreds of people on the petitions who would not have been reached by the listserves and signs alone.

As soon as we have any news regarding the resolution and the public hearing, we will let you all know through the website, listserves, and facebook groups. When we have the date of the public hearing we will also put out flyers door to door calling for your support and attendance at the hearing. Rather than multiple stakeholder meetings, there will now be one public hearing, one great opportunity to show City Council that Highland wants and deserves a neighborhood park.

 

NEW PARK SIGNS ARE IN!

Thanks to some very generous donations at the Highland 4th of July picnic we have purchased 150 new yard signs- double sided this time! Thank you so much Highland for your support at the picnic. We had 154 letters to city council signed, lots of names added to the petition, and 18 surveys filled out. A great big thank you from Highland to Blackstar Coop for donating a keg of beer for the picnic! Let them know how much we appreciate it when you visit them for a pint.

The signs have arrived and you can request one here. If you have not filled out a survey or emailed city council on please do so. We want to put together a visual soon of the St Johns property with the park features based upon the survey.

The park committee is also looking for the participation of our younger Highlanders. We would like parents to have their kids draw a picture of what their dream park would look like. There have been some amazing park themes and designs that have come from kids helping in park design, and we want to share the ideas of Highland’s kids at the stakeholder meetings. You can email to have the drawings picked up.

 

154 Letters to City Council!

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Highland Neighborhood’s push for a park is featured in Community Impact magazine!

Our park effort is getting some attention! Comments from Damon Howze and a small article on Highland’s community led push for a park are featured in this local magazine, along with 3 other neighborhoods. Go see for yourself!

http://impactnews.com/austin-metro/central-austin/a-grass-roots-push-for-central-austin-parks/

 

10 Park signs left!

The 100 we bought have gone quickly. We may not have any more to distribute by the July 4th potluck at Dorothy John’s Triangle, but we will have petitions to sign and letters that we will mail for you. If you would like to donate so that we can order more signs, please visit the Request a Sign or Donate tab. Thank you everyone for your great response and participation!

 

PARK SIGNS ARE IN!

Request a sign to get one for your yard!

Members of the Highland Neighborhood Park Committee will be at the July 4th picnic at Dorothy Johns Triangle to pass out yard signs and provide letters to city council that we will mail for you. Verona’s is donating Italian food and neighbors are donating a 27 lb smoked turkey for the festivities! See the Highland neighborhood July 4th post for more info.

Please visit the other tabs on this website to see what needs to be done before the shareholder meetings at the end of July. We still need a lot of petition volunteers to cover our neighborhood, and city council needs to hear from Highland either by email or letter.

The city’s decision to put a park at 401 W. St. Johns is going to depend on how much noise we make. Let’s let them know we want a park!

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