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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Join us for the July 4th picnic and PARK GRANT presentation!

We are pleased to invite you to the annual Fourth of July Highland Neighborhood Potluck Picnic being held for the first time at the new Highland Neighborhood Park!

This will be the first of many  events to celebrate together in our new neighborhood park. This year we are excited to announce that HNA has officially adopted the park as Friends of Highland Neighborhood Park, and on July 4th Capital CDC will be presenting us with a grant for $2000! This small business loan company approached HNA wanting to  support the park and our community. According to the City’s Neighborhood Partnering Project, Capital CDC’s grant will turn into $6,667 with a City match and we will be able to start putting some amenities into the park when master planning is completed!

Please join us on July 4th to be a part of the celebration. We will have a keg of beer donated by Black Star Coop, some pulled pork tacos courtesy of your friendly HNA President Alex Schmitz, lots of lovely dishes from your fellow Highlanders, and a little amateur face painting. The picnic is from 11:30-2, we’ll start eating around noon, grant presentation at 12:30, and the firetruck will be there from 1-2. Bring a dish and a chair and come out to meet your neighbors and the folks from Capital CDC who are giving Highland Neighborhood Park its first of many grants and donations!

We are still a few months out from community involvement in the master planning project, but we know that with generous donations, like the one from Capital CDC, we are on our way to our dream park!


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Updated Park Timeline

PARD has given us an adjusted timeline that is a little delayed, but still has us starting master planning and finishing the draft this year. The timeline made it in time for the newsletters so you should be seeing the update and more on your doorstep soon. This weekend the bulldozer was delivered to the home on St Johns which will be the site of the new Highland Neighborhood Park entrance, so we’ll be seeing a lot more of the park soon!

Timeline Summary:
Fence Removal – February/March 2015 start
Home Demolition – March 2015 completion
Master Plan posting for Consultants – late-March 2015 (4 weeks)
Consultant Selection/Negotiation – May/June 2015
Start Master Planning – July 2015
Draft Master Plan – December 2015
Parks Board Review – January 2016
Report to Council – February 2016
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Highland Neighborhood Park and Reznicek Fields Coming Soon!

An update is far over due, so there is much to say  . . .

  • First, our new park now has a name! January 28th the Park Board voted in favor of the name Highland Neighborhood Park and Reznicek FieldsWe are so grateful to the University Hills Optimist Board for speaking in favor of sharing the name of the park at the Park Board meeting. UHO really wanted the name Reznicek Park in honor of Mr Edward Reznicek’s 40+ years of service with UHO on the park site. However, in spirit of cooperation and compromise, UHO agreed to Highland Neighborhood Park and Reznicek Fields, honoring the contributions and legacy of Mr Reznicek and the residents of Highland neighborhood. We look forward to working together to build an amazing park!
  • Second, we have money for master planning! Thanks to Highland resident Robert Deegan, a landscape architect with a local firm who has helped us secure a commitment to create the master plan for a reduced fee so that more of our limited funds can go to improving our park. Council Members Kathie Tovo and Laura Morrison spoke repeatedly in favor of our cause, and in the end we got even more than our ask! The City allocated $87,475 one time funds in the 2015 budget to the park, and $12,525 annually for maintenance. With these funds master planning will begin this year!
  • Third, we have a timeline for master planning. Right now PARD is finalizing the scope of the project and in the process of working on the master planning contract. During the actual planning process we expect at least 3 community meetings for people to give input on amenities and design. As we get closer to a finalized master plan we will begin working on grant writing. If you have any experience with grant writing or fundraising and want to help please contact me at . Seriously, I’ve never written a grant before. If you can help it will make a huge difference in the timeline of getting amenities at the park.
Master Planning Timeline:
Selection and Negotiation of Contract March 2015
Start Master planning process April 2015
Complete Draft Master Plan October 2015
Review- Parks Board November 2015
Send Report to Council December 2015
  • Fourth, PARD has purchased the home immediately west of the entrance to the park (highlighted in green on pic below). They will be demolishing it to open the entrance to a park, increasing safety and appeal as more of the park will be visible from the
  • Fifth, PARD is now maintaining the property outside the two kick ball fields in the southeast corner. You may enter the kickball fields, but please close the fence back because dogs cannot be on fields used for play. The baseball fields are open for use, but the fences will remain until PARD has the money to demo them. The baseball gates do not need to be closed. PARD is now emptying trash on a daily basis and mowing every 2-3 weeks.
  • Sixth, with a heavy heart we say goodbye to the park committee Vice Chair Charlotte Garza. Charlotte dedicated an enormous amount of time to this pcharlotteark since she joined the committee last June. She took time away from her family to meet with Council Members, speak at numerous Council and Board meetings, hound various City departments, organize presentations, and so much more. She was instrumental in the St Johns property becoming a park and securing the master planning funding. She has worked tirelessly for this site, and Highland Neighborhood Park exists because of her dedication, selfless donation of time, and cheerful persistence. The move is temporary, so we will look forward to celebrating her return at Highland Neighborhood Park!
  • Seventh, Richard Sommer is new Vice Chair for Highland Neighborhood Park Committee. Rich volunteered for the park committee multiple times over the last year, attending Board Meetings to support the park, and filling many, many, many map making needs for the poor committee Chair (me, Marla) who didn’t even know how to draw a radius on a map. We are so grateful to Rich for his help the past year and look forward to working with him in his new role!
  • Eighth, (very long overdue post, I know) If you would like to volunteer on the committee please contact me at Things are quiet now, but when master planning begins I am sure we will find something to do. I can personally say that the past year and half has been an amazing experience getting to know my neighbors all across Highland and seeing what can be accomplished through working with HNA and the City. If you want to have a hand in shaping a new park in central Austin and your own neighborhood I invite you to join us!

Finally, THANK YOU to everyone who has helped along the way, from speaking at Council to organizing presentations to donating money to sending an email, you made a difference! We have a park to prove it!

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By now you know what I want, more emails to City Council . . .

So they discussed our park funding in City Council today and it wasn’t great, but we are still holding out hope. Tovo introduced the item and they approved $10,000 from the general budget to provide annual maintenance on the site as it is (mow and empty trash). The 3 Million budget surplus that we were hoping to draw the rest of the money from was already allocated to other items at this point.

Here is where Laura Morrison stepped up in an attempt to save our bacon. She asked the others to go back tonight and look at the their own budget items from that 3M and find ways to shave it, just a little bit. If they can all cut just a little bit, they can redistribute funds to come up with a paltry sum of $67,575 for the park.

Below is another template urging council to make these cuts, and find the money for us in the next two days of work sessions. Let’s flood them with so much public support for this that they can’t say no. Your friends, your family, your dog, we need all of their emails! WE CAN DO THIS!!!

Thank you for your emails and dedication!
Highland Neighborhood Park Committee

Subject – Funding a Park at 401 W. St. Johns

Dear Council Members and Mayor,

Thank you for recognizing the amount of effort our neighborhood has put into getting a park at 401 W. St. Johns, and for voting to allocate funds to annual maintenance of the site.

We know that on Monday, September 8th you debated how to fund the additional $67,575 we are requesting. With that amount, we are not asking you to build this park, only that you allocate seed money for site preparation, the very necessary master plan, and fencing needs. If each of you could find $11,000 of the funds already allocated to redistribute to this effort, our hands would be untied and we would have the ability to write grants and collect donations that we can actually use toward building park amenities.
This park will benefit not only Highland neighborhood but all of North Central Austin. The site is intersected by 3 bike lanes and is within 1/2 mile of two train stations and North Lamar, one of the busiest travel corridors in Austin. With the severe lack of amenities and large amount of development in North Central Austin, this park will serve so many Austinites. We beg you to find a way to provide $67,575 for a park at 401 W. St Johns.
Thank you again for recognizing the hard work of our neighborhood and the desperate need for parkland to serve the community of North Central Austin.


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Emails to Council needed this morning if we want park funding in 2015!

To all our Highland residents,

Thank you so much for your emails last week. Council did not discuss the St Johns property last Wednesday as we were told, but will discuss it in today’s work session. Charlotte Garza was able to meet with several Council Members on Friday. Many were receptive to our proposed funding needs. However, we were told yesterday that the budget amendment being brought forward by Kathie Tovo’s office today is for $22,000 dollars. This amount is far below what is needed for master planning and to make necessary site changes to begin park development when Highland’s Park Committee is able to raise necessary funds. We are very grateful to Council Member Kathie Tovo and her office for their work and her advocacy for our park over the last year, but this is not enough.

First thing this morning we need emails addressing all of the City Council Members, letting them know $22K is far below what our neighborhood needs.

It appears Council Member Tovo’s position is that a master planning process is unnecessary for this site. However, the PARD recommendation accepted by the Parks Board and City Council dictates that several decisions regarding the site need to be determined in the master planning process, and if you participated in the contentious stakeholder meetings, you understand why PARD felt it was necessary that a professional firm oversee the planning process. We have secured a commitment from a local landscape architect firm to create the master plan for a reduced fee so that more of our limited funds can go to improving our park. We have brought down our ask to $77,525, which includes master planning, initial site preparation, annual maintenance, and some short term solutions that will allow us to introduce park amenities on site when grants are available. Out of the 3M+ budget surplus, Highland is asking for $77,525, not to build us a park, just to get us to the stage when we can raise the funds to do that ourselves. With the development occurring in Highland, the City must stand by its land use policies and provide funding for the necessary infrastructure in a dense park deficient, under-served, mass transit neighborhood.

Below is a template for you are welcome to use when reaching out to City Council. Please send your emails first thing this morning, and send the template and link on to any friends and family you think would take 2 minutes to copy and paste this email.

This is our last chance to secure adequate funding for a park at 401 W. St. Johns. This budget amendment will be introduced tomorrow and voted on next week. Whatever we get here is all we will get in 2015, so we need your emails.

Thank you!
Highland Neighborhood Park Committee

Dear Council Member,

We greatly appreciate your consideration of funding for a park at 401 W. St Johns. We understand that an amendment is being brought forward tomorrow for $22,000 to fund a park for the under-served residents of Highland, zip code 78752, and District 4. We appreciate the introduction of this amendment, but the funding is too low to allow youth sports to play and a park to be built.

We are urging you to allocate $77,525 instead. This is the amount necessary for master planning, fencing needs, initial site preparation, and annual maintenance. $77,525 is the lowest amount we can ask that allows the Highland neighborhood to roll up our sleeves and begin our own fundraising, grant-writing and tree-planting campaign to create a park while ensuring youth sports continues to have the necessary space and resources.

We have already secured a commitment to a reduced fee from a local firm for master planning. You as a Council voted unanimously on June 26th to approve Resolution 20140626-071, which mandated $122,525 be considered for this budget cycle, and many of you said that you would vote to allocate the park the $287,525 we were asking for last week. Through further hard work and belt tightening, we have found some short term solutions that would allow introduction of amenities on site for $77,525 rather than the $287,000 asked for last week, and still less than the $122,525 from CM Riley’s resolution. When else during this budget session have you encountered a neighborhood whose volunteer work has brought down the funding requested to BELOW that which was introduced in a Council resolution?

Highland neighborhood, which includes the Crestview and Highland TODs, Highland ACC, Airport Blvd Redevelopment, and now a new proposed Urban Rail and Park and Rides, has waited too long for a park to serve our 4500 residents. Tracts of homes in our neighborhood were constructed beginning in the late 1940’s, taxes have been paid into the city for decades and yet we have not received 1 penny of parkland money in all the years of our neighborhood’s existence. Our zip code, 78752, does not have one single park amenity available during school hours. Our District, 4, has the greatest density of any district, the largest number of children age 0-9 and the least number of park acres. 30% of District 4’s residents fall below the poverty line, many live in multifamily buildings, and their quality of life would be enhanced enormously by increased access to public green space that is designed to best-serve the community.

The Austin residents of Highland, 78752, and all of District 4 have been park deficient and under-served for too long to wait until the 2018 bond, or later, to begin planning and building this park. We have secured a sizable donation for a master planning process that, according to PARD planners, is essential to provide optimal design in an built out area of Austin so severely lacking in park amenities. We ask you to stand by the land use policies laid out in Imagine Austin and please support funding $77,525 for a park at 401 W St Johns.

Thank you,

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A Park for Highland needs you to email Council NOW (literally right now)

We need your help NOW to get funding for a park for Highland. Please email City Council immediately after reading the info below to help us secure essential funds.

Today we spoke at the public budget hearing requesting that the City approve the proposed funding for our park including:

-Master planning (designing the space)
-Initial site clean up (taking down fences)
-Continued maintenance of the site

Additionally, we asked for approx. $240,000 to create a new multipurpose field on the NW corner of the site. This would consolidate the existing fields (as agreed with UHO) and free up the rest of the space (including the only shady space available, under a row of giant heritage trees) at 401 W. St. Johns for amenities the community wants and is able to raise funds to create. Field construction is by far the greatest expenditure of the $287,250 we are requesting.

Unless we get all the funding we are requesting, particularly the funds to build a new field for the Optimists, our hands will be tied to build anything for our park until after the 2018 bond election – if* we are lucky enough to even be included in that.

This afternoon (like right now) City Council is discussing funding 401 W. St Johns. We need you to reach out to our City Council Members and Mayor NOW, so as they go into afternoon budget work session, they know that Highland still cares about this park, and there are bunch of citizens and voters who want this funded. We have drafted an email below you are welcome to copy and paste, or feel free to use your own words to urge them to get this critical funding for a Park for Highland, stressing the need to fund master planning and site preparation, continued maintenance of the site, and creation of the new field for the Optimists. A park at 401 W. St Johns has been in our neighborhood plan for over 10 years, we should not have to wait another 10 years to have a park because there is no funding for a new multi-use field for the Optimists. Either way, please write them ASAP so our voices are heard in time.

Thanks to Highland resident Robert Deegan, a landscape architect with a local firm who has helped us secure a commitment to create the master plan for a reduced fee so that more of our limited funds can go to improving our park. We are very lucky to have neighbors like Robert who are willing to truly go above and beyond for their neighborhood.

Marla and Charlotte

Dear Council Member,

I am writing in support of an amendment to the 2015 Budget that would allocate $282,750 as a critical one time expenditure for master planning, initial park readiness, and initial park development, prioritized for creation of a 1.3 acre sports league multi-use field. This includes a commitment from a local landscape architect firm to create the master plan for a reduced fee so that more of our limited funds can go to improving our park. We also ask for $12,525 in annual maintenance for this site. The greatest expenditure by far is the $240,000 baseline estimate to create a new, consolidated, sports league field.

Our neighborhood has worked so hard the last year to gain public access to 401 W. St Johns, and the opportunity to turn it into a park. Building a park on this site has been in Highland Neighborhood master plan since 2003. We can not wait another 10 years for a playground where our children can play, picnic tables and pavilions where families can gather for birthday parties, and trails where our elderly residents can take their walks. There is a large of amount of development and densification occurring in Highland neighborhood, including the Crestview and Highland TODs, Airport Blvd Redevelopment, Highland ACC, and now a new proposed Urban rail line with Park and Rides. All of this development requires infrastructure, and according to Imagine Austin, that means parks.

Please vote to support our community with this budget expenditure so that we can partner in raising funds to create the park so desperately needed in Highland, zip code 78752, and District 4.

Thank you,



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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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