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.
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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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