Feb 05, 2014 - 02:11 pm CST

Austin's Pease Park. For most people just the name of this park conjures up memories of the annual Eeyore's Birthday Party—a fete thrown by locals in honor of the perpetually-sad donkey in A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh stories. Since 1974, the 42-acre park in the heart of Austin has been the gathering place for the eclectic party that features live music, family games (think giant maypole, sack races and oversized jigsaw puzzles) and a costume contest renowned for its creativity. But there is much more to Pease park than its annual tribute to the fictional donkey.

A Rich and Varied History
Shoal Creek, which makes up the backbone of the park, was home to native Americans who fished in, and drank from, the creek's pristine waters. In 1842, a Mexican invasion caused many Austin residents to flee. After that time, the Native Americans became more aggressive in skirmishes with European settlers. Most Native Americans were pushed out by the 1850s.

After the Civil War, the Congressional Reconstruction Plan called for George Custer and his troops to come to Texas, restore order and reign in post-war opportunists. Custor and his men were encamped along Shoal Creek when cholera swept through the camp, killing a reported 35 to 40 men, all of whom were buried along the west side of Pease Park. In the 1880s, most of the bodies were located and reinterred to the National Cemetery in San Antonio. Seven more bodies were discovered in the aftermath of the flood of 1900. These were then reinterred at Austin’s Oakwood Cemetery, where they lie in state today. Robert E. Lee, as a young man, also camped with troops all along Shoal Creek.

If the Shoal Creek area hadn't already seen enough, the 1890s brought a surge of gold-rush fever. Rumors of buried Mexican gold brought treasure hunters to dig in the park for years. But no gold was ever found. Rough times were not over for the park... In 1875 Governor Pease and his wife gave the land we know as Pease Park to the citizens of Austin. But for another 50 years, the parkland remained little more than a dump where locals disposed of dead livestock. It wasn't until 1926, that help came to the park when the community spent thousands of dollars for a rest room, entrance gates, a wading pool and more. After its 1926 beautification, Pease Park thrived with parties, concerts, Easter egg hunts, and many other events. But with any park, a lack of maintenance and unrestrained overuse can quickly result in a decline of both natural features and man-made amenities.

The Park Protectors

Fortunately for Austin, an abundance of dedicated stewards have stepped in over the years to develop and protect the park.

The Austin Kiwanis Club: In the 1920s, the Club committed to beautifying Pease Park and raised money for theTudor Cottage restroom, entrance gates, a wading pool and more.

Janet Long Fish: In the early 1950s, daughter of Austin community leader, Walter E. Long persuaded the Austin City Council to approve the construction of the hike and bike trail from Pease Park to 39th street. Janet spent her own money, time and considerable effort in getting it done—even leading a bulldozer along the trail to grade it according to the City requirements.

The Junior League of Austin and the Austin Metro Trails and Greenways: have contributed time, effort and money towards Shoal creek’s preservation.

The Pease Park Conservancy (PPC): In 2008, a group of residents concerned about the park’s recent decline decided to “adopt” the park under the umbrella of the Austin Parks Foundation. Now a full-fledged non-profit corporation with a 17-member Board of Directors and a 10-person Advisory Board, the group seeks to work toward an improved and sustainable future for the park.

 

couple riding bicyclesPease Park—A Community’s Treasure

Richard Craig, Chairperson for the Pease Park Conservancy (PPC), sees the park as far more than just a nice, outdoor event venue.

“The trees, fields, hillsides and the creek are what make the park great,” Craig said. “There is the illusion that it has been unchanged since the Comanche Indians left, although it is in the literal heart of an exploding urban area. We want to keep that so it can be enjoyed by future generations.”

The PPC has led efforts to improve the area’s landscape, including planting hundreds of new trees and restoring historic features in the park, such as the Tudor Cottage and Memorial Entry Gates constructed in the 1920s and the picnic tables installed in the 1930s. In 2012, the PPC established a permanent financial endowment for the park at the Austin Community Foundation. The fund now boasts a $165,000 balance, five percent of which can be used annually for improvements in the park and greenbelt.

The PPC went even further by funding a Master Plan for the park and teaming up with the City of Austin to gather significant public input. “The Master Plan will provide a blueprint for the ecological restoration and maintenance of the park and greenbelt as well as some recreational enhancements of the area,” says Craig. “Once it is completed and adopted by the Austin Parks Board and City Council, the PPC and City will work together to find funding to implement the plan in phases over time.”

Another project aims to address erosion issues in Shoal Creek. The Shoal Creek Restoration Project will include: stabilizing the creek banks; improving creek access points; extending trails and paths; installing infiltration areas to better manage stormwater runoff; removing some wastewater line and restoring soil and native vegetation. Work on these projects will begin in the spring of this year and will last approximately 18 months. The project will be constructed in three phases such that the park will not be impacted all at once.

This year promises to be an exciting one for Pease Park. The combination of dedicated residents, neighbors and City staff have all come together to address the diverse needs of the park in a permanent and ongoing way.

“As our central city population grows rapidly in density and size, these green spaces are going to be under intense pressure from residents seeking recreation,” Craig said. “We want it to be sustainable and this will be hard work that the next generation, and the following one, must take up in turn.”

So by all means check out Eeyore's party, but come back for everything else this great park has to offer.

Couple walking a dog

 

Note: Pease Park offers miles of trails for walking, cycling and dog-walking. The park also has a playscape, a splashpad, two basketball courts, three volleyball courts and many picnic tables. There is an off-leash area along the trail to the west of Shoal Creek between 24th and 29th Streets.

 

Dec 23, 2013 - 02:58 pm CST

Good Things Come in Small Packages

Down on Guadalupe near 10th street, sits a historic little square park with sloping green hills and a quaint white gazebo in its center. Despite its modest size (just a bit over an acre), Wooldridge Square Park looms large in Austin’s history.

In 1839, Austin’s master plan included four public squares in the downtown area. Today, Wooldridge is the only one of those that remains in use as it was originally intended—as a public gathering place for events, speeches and music. The square has seen a lot in its 100+ years, including a massive community sing-along for WWI soldiers, political speeches from governors and senators (even the future President Lyndon B. Johnson), musical performances, weddings and giant chess games. But the future of this Austin treasure was not always certain.

After its initial inception, not much was done with the park and it slowly became an informal dump, with trash and rainwater filling its natural bowl-like shape. However, at the turn of the century, a period of civic pride spurred a new interest in the area and Austin Mayor (and park namesake) A. P. Wooldridge sponsored the cleaning of the square and the construction of the centerpiece gazebo. That was the summer of 1909. Since then, many improvements and renovations have been needed to keep up with the wear and tear of an adoring public. If it’s possible for a park to be “loved to death,” Wooldridge almost was.

The latest, significant improvements to the park were completed in the summer of 2013. They included:

  • electrical upgrades
  • light soil amendment
  • new irrigation system
  • new drought-tolerant turf grass
  • 11 new tree plantings
  • mulch for all existing trees

Friends of Wooldridge Square and the Austin Parks and Recreation Department joined forces to:

  • install a new mobile vendor pad with electric connection and gravel surface
  • install five new light fixtures along the interior walkway
  • install new benches and trash receptacles throughout the park

Additionally, the Friends of Wooldridge, the Austin Parks Foundation and the Parks and Recreation Department repaired and painted the historic bandstand gazebo.

The park reopened with a ribbon-cutting and two days of festivities in September 2013. With the strong support of the community, it seems certain that Wooldridge will never again suffer from neglect. This most recent renovation is just the first phase of improvements for the park. The approval of the 2012 G.O. Bond Program included a $1M allocation for Downtown Squares ($200k of which is anticipated for additional improvements at Wooldridge Square). The next steps will begin in the winter of 2014 with a series of public engagement meetings that will lead to a preliminary design phase for the overall park.

Whether you’re a long-time visitor to Wooldridge Park or you’ve never heard of it, now is a good time to visit. Check out the new improvements and get to know this historical, little gem in the heart of downtown.

Nov 20, 2012 - 04:16 pm CST

In most of the country, winter is a time of sadness for golfers. The links may look pretty covered in snow, but the sight of unused clubs cancels out this seasonal joy.

But not in Austin. Here, even a casual golfer can enjoy year-round enjoyment of the sport. There are plenty of places to play, but the City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department’s public courses offer affordable rounds of golf for players of any skill level.

While all of PARD’s courses offer a great experience, Roy Kizer Golf Course certainly offers one of the best.

“We have the busiest 36-hole in Texas,” said Steve Hammond, Director of Golf at Roy Kizer. Hammond said the course is popular because it is 35 percent cheaper than anywhere in town and because anyone can golf there.

The course hosts 30-40,000 range visitors each year, Hammond said.

Despite the traffic, many enthusiasts have not checked out this lovely course that rivals the best in the City. The holiday season is a perfect time to get out and enjoy some golf.

Kizer’s par 71, links-style layout is spread over almost 200 acres in Southeast Austin. Golfers enjoy their game among epic views of central Texas lakes and wetlands - home to migratory waterfowl and occasional appearances by Austin’s green parrots. The natural beauty of the course is a great “hook” to get non-golfers interested in the game.

While challenging, the entire course is set up to maximize enjoyment for golfers, regardless of skill level. Ample fairways and the choice of five sets of tees provides each golfer the opportunity to play a course that fits their skill level and a variety of ways to negotiate the challenges set forth.

“Anybody who wants to can play golf out here,” Hammond said.  The course is “very playable,” featuring holes for different skill levels. Visitors can make the course as long or as short as they want. Kizer also features a four-hold learning center which is popular with beginners and children.

The course boasts a driving range, a pro shop stocked with everything a golfer might need (and forgot to bring), reasonable cart rentals and even a snack bar featuring carbonated beverages to cool off, or as the case may be, warm up.

It’s an environmentally-friendly golf course – birds crowd its many ponds and turtles regularly cruise along the cart paths searching for warmth. The park uses reclaimed water in its ponds, and this time of year is perfect to see large flocks of migratory birds coming through, Hammond said.

Whether you’re a veteran of this course or a first-timer, now is the time to get out and tee off at Kizer!

Reservations and Tee Times

Please call 512-444-0999 for tee times, or make a reservation online. Tee times for weekdays are taken seven days in advance; Saturday and Sunday times are taken on the Tuesday before the weekend. You can begin making reservations at 7:00AM on these days.

Oct 18, 2012 - 03:39 pm CDT

A two-mile trek down a winding wooded road is worth one’s while upon arriving at the entrance to October’s Park of the Month – Emma Long Metropolitan Park.

The northwest Austin park is the only City-owned park that offers camping – and the only one with a beach.

The park entrance, at 1706 City Park Road, is deep within its wooded confines. Visitors drive from Ranch to Market Road 2222 onto City Park Road, which winds south through the park until it spits you out at Lake Austin.

Emma Long Park offers 66 campsites which provide direct access to the lake, said K Richelle Bass, an Emma Long Park employee.

Campers can choose electric or non-electric sites, bring a tent or an RV, and spend the days fishing, hiking, playing volleyball or basketball, swimming on the beach or boating on the lake (bring your own boat).

Emma Long also boasts a 9.5-mile challenging outdoor motorcycle trail and a reasonably-priced rental facility for big events, Bass said.

The campsites are 10 to 25 dollars a night depending on their location and whether they are electric sites. There also are one-time car fees of 5 to 10 dollars, so consolidating cars is encouraged for group campouts, Bass said.

Up to 8 campers can enjoy each shaded site under Pecan, Cottonwood and Larch trees. The isolated campground is quiet and safe, surrounded by trees, water and wildflowers blooming in the Fall.

Even more flowers bloom in the Spring and the pace picks up when Emma Long hosts special events such as bike races, runs and even a fundraising swim to the Highway Loop 360 bridge.

And there’s always an opportunity to help out at the park, Bass said. Some local companies and scout troops go to the park to plant flowers and help clean up litter, she said.

Those interested in volunteering can call visit the Parks and Recreation Volunteer page.

More Information

Jun 27, 2012 - 12:55 pm CDT

As summer takes hold in Austin, a cool breeze can be impossible to find. But at July’s Park of the Month, you’ll find the cool kids – and even some adults – catching air, feeling the wind in their face and defying scorching heat in an exciting style.

At the Austin BMX and Skate Park, skaters and bikers defy gravity on ramps, grind down rails and swoop through the park’s bowl, which makes up a third of the park. Park-goers who prefer a different style of skating and biking can show off their skills in the plaza-style part of the park, which makes up the remainder of the area.

From sunup to sundown, you’ll find skaters and bikers catching air in the park. Since its opening last year, the park has seen frequent use from all ages – from young children learning to ride to adult enthusiasts. In fact, the site itself has always been a favorite spot for activity, even before it was developed into the park.

Boy riding a bike down a ramp

Youth jumping in the air while flipping skateboardPark History

The Austin BMX and Skate Park sits at the site of the old Austin Recreation Center, 1213 Shoal Creek Boulevard. The center, which flooded during the historic 1981 Memorial Day Flood, was demolished in the late 2000s. At that time, the Parks and Recreation Department identified the site as a potential skate park.

The idea of the park worked well there, because the unique status of the land presented an issue for its use. Project Coordinator Gary Gregson said that because the area was in a flood plain, “we thought the skate park was a good use for the land, which couldn’t have been used for much else.”

To ensure its success, the department hired an internationally recognized skate park design company to envision the park. The company met early in the design process with the local skating and BMX community to receive input on the park’s design, features and facilities, then used this input to design today’s park.

Person riding a bike up a ramp

Challenging All Skill Levels

One necessary element identified by the public was the park’s ability to satisfy and challenge people of all skill levels. The City’s only skate park at that time, Mabel Davis Skate Park, was a technical park geared toward advanced users.

Gregson believes the Austin BMX and Skate Park filled this gap. “[The park] was designed with all skill levels in mind, so those from beginners to advanced skaters can find something to do,” he said.

 

Playing with Public Art

Person jumping a bike up a rampAnother appealing aspect of the park is its usable artwork. During the design process, the department worked with the Arts in Public Places Program to commission a local artist, Chris Levack, to produce two pieces of art for the park.

Today, this artwork isn’t just pretty to look at – it’s functional. Trilobite Shade provides respite from the hot Texas sun to park visitors. And according to Gregson, the Iron Wave, a rideable sculpture, has become a trademark of the site. Both pieces of artwork were recently nationally recognized for excellence among the best public artworks in the nation.

Location, Location, Location

Finally, visitors relish the fact that the park is centrally located, so it’s easily accessible from all parts of Austin, especially by public transportation. Gregson explained that this central location is very important to park-goers. “Skateboard enthusiasts are trying to promote all over the country that skate parks don’t have to be in an isolated, useless part of the town,” he said. “It’s not something you have to hide. It’s something you can have downtown that is accessible and appreciated by everyone.”

Dec 23, 2013 - 02:58 pm CST

Good Things Come in Small Packages

Down on Guadalupe near 10th street, sits a historic little square park with sloping green hills and a quaint white gazebo in its center. Despite its modest size (just a bit over an acre), Wooldridge Square Park looms large in Austin’s history.

In 1839, Austin’s master plan included four public squares in the downtown area. Today, Wooldridge is the only one of those that remains in use as it was originally intended—as a public gathering place for events, speeches and music. The square has seen a lot in its 100+ years, including a massive community sing-along for WWI soldiers, political speeches from governors and senators (even the future President Lyndon B. Johnson), musical performances, weddings and giant chess games. But the future of this Austin treasure was not always certain.

After its initial inception, not much was done with the park and it slowly became an informal dump, with trash and rainwater filling its natural bowl-like shape. However, at the turn of the century, a period of civic pride spurred a new interest in the area and Austin Mayor (and park namesake) A. P. Wooldridge sponsored the cleaning of the square and the construction of the centerpiece gazebo. That was the summer of 1909. Since then, many improvements and renovations have been needed to keep up with the wear and tear of an adoring public. If it’s possible for a park to be “loved to death,” Wooldridge almost was.

The latest, significant improvements to the park were completed in the summer of 2013. They included:

  • electrical upgrades
  • light soil amendment
  • new irrigation system
  • new drought-tolerant turf grass
  • 11 new tree plantings
  • mulch for all existing trees

Friends of Wooldridge Square and the Austin Parks and Recreation Department joined forces to:

  • install a new mobile vendor pad with electric connection and gravel surface
  • install five new light fixtures along the interior walkway
  • install new benches and trash receptacles throughout the park

Additionally, the Friends of Wooldridge, the Austin Parks Foundation and the Parks and Recreation Department repaired and painted the historic bandstand gazebo.

The park reopened with a ribbon-cutting and two days of festivities in September 2013. With the strong support of the community, it seems certain that Wooldridge will never again suffer from neglect. This most recent renovation is just the first phase of improvements for the park. The approval of the 2012 G.O. Bond Program included a $1M allocation for Downtown Squares ($200k of which is anticipated for additional improvements at Wooldridge Square). The next steps will begin in the winter of 2014 with a series of public engagement meetings that will lead to a preliminary design phase for the overall park.

Whether you’re a long-time visitor to Wooldridge Park or you’ve never heard of it, now is a good time to visit. Check out the new improvements and get to know this historical, little gem in the heart of downtown.

Park of the Month
Nov 20, 2012 - 04:16 pm CST

In most of the country, winter is a time of sadness for golfers. The links may look pretty covered in snow, but the sight of unused clubs cancels out this seasonal joy.

But not in Austin. Here, even a casual golfer can enjoy year-round enjoyment of the sport. There are plenty of places to play, but the City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department’s public courses offer affordable rounds of golf for players of any skill level.

While all of PARD’s courses offer a great experience, Roy Kizer Golf Course certainly offers one of the best.

“We have the busiest 36-hole in Texas,” said Steve Hammond, Director of Golf at Roy Kizer. Hammond said the course is popular because it is 35 percent cheaper than anywhere in town and because anyone can golf there.

The course hosts 30-40,000 range visitors each year, Hammond said.

Despite the traffic, many enthusiasts have not checked out this lovely course that rivals the best in the City. The holiday season is a perfect time to get out and enjoy some golf.

Kizer’s par 71, links-style layout is spread over almost 200 acres in Southeast Austin. Golfers enjoy their game among epic views of central Texas lakes and wetlands - home to migratory waterfowl and occasional appearances by Austin’s green parrots. The natural beauty of the course is a great “hook” to get non-golfers interested in the game.

While challenging, the entire course is set up to maximize enjoyment for golfers, regardless of skill level. Ample fairways and the choice of five sets of tees provides each golfer the opportunity to play a course that fits their skill level and a variety of ways to negotiate the challenges set forth.

“Anybody who wants to can play golf out here,” Hammond said.  The course is “very playable,” featuring holes for different skill levels. Visitors can make the course as long or as short as they want. Kizer also features a four-hold learning center which is popular with beginners and children.

The course boasts a driving range, a pro shop stocked with everything a golfer might need (and forgot to bring), reasonable cart rentals and even a snack bar featuring carbonated beverages to cool off, or as the case may be, warm up.

It’s an environmentally-friendly golf course – birds crowd its many ponds and turtles regularly cruise along the cart paths searching for warmth. The park uses reclaimed water in its ponds, and this time of year is perfect to see large flocks of migratory birds coming through, Hammond said.

Whether you’re a veteran of this course or a first-timer, now is the time to get out and tee off at Kizer!

Reservations and Tee Times

Please call 512-444-0999 for tee times, or make a reservation online. Tee times for weekdays are taken seven days in advance; Saturday and Sunday times are taken on the Tuesday before the weekend. You can begin making reservations at 7:00AM on these days.

Park of the Month
Oct 18, 2012 - 03:39 pm CDT

A two-mile trek down a winding wooded road is worth one’s while upon arriving at the entrance to October’s Park of the Month – Emma Long Metropolitan Park.

The northwest Austin park is the only City-owned park that offers camping – and the only one with a beach.

The park entrance, at 1706 City Park Road, is deep within its wooded confines. Visitors drive from Ranch to Market Road 2222 onto City Park Road, which winds south through the park until it spits you out at Lake Austin.

Emma Long Park offers 66 campsites which provide direct access to the lake, said K Richelle Bass, an Emma Long Park employee.

Campers can choose electric or non-electric sites, bring a tent or an RV, and spend the days fishing, hiking, playing volleyball or basketball, swimming on the beach or boating on the lake (bring your own boat).

Emma Long also boasts a 9.5-mile challenging outdoor motorcycle trail and a reasonably-priced rental facility for big events, Bass said.

The campsites are 10 to 25 dollars a night depending on their location and whether they are electric sites. There also are one-time car fees of 5 to 10 dollars, so consolidating cars is encouraged for group campouts, Bass said.

Up to 8 campers can enjoy each shaded site under Pecan, Cottonwood and Larch trees. The isolated campground is quiet and safe, surrounded by trees, water and wildflowers blooming in the Fall.

Even more flowers bloom in the Spring and the pace picks up when Emma Long hosts special events such as bike races, runs and even a fundraising swim to the Highway Loop 360 bridge.

And there’s always an opportunity to help out at the park, Bass said. Some local companies and scout troops go to the park to plant flowers and help clean up litter, she said.

Those interested in volunteering can call visit the Parks and Recreation Volunteer page.

More Information

Park of the Month
Jun 27, 2012 - 12:55 pm CDT

As summer takes hold in Austin, a cool breeze can be impossible to find. But at July’s Park of the Month, you’ll find the cool kids – and even some adults – catching air, feeling the wind in their face and defying scorching heat in an exciting style.

At the Austin BMX and Skate Park, skaters and bikers defy gravity on ramps, grind down rails and swoop through the park’s bowl, which makes up a third of the park. Park-goers who prefer a different style of skating and biking can show off their skills in the plaza-style part of the park, which makes up the remainder of the area.

From sunup to sundown, you’ll find skaters and bikers catching air in the park. Since its opening last year, the park has seen frequent use from all ages – from young children learning to ride to adult enthusiasts. In fact, the site itself has always been a favorite spot for activity, even before it was developed into the park.

Boy riding a bike down a ramp

Youth jumping in the air while flipping skateboardPark History

The Austin BMX and Skate Park sits at the site of the old Austin Recreation Center, 1213 Shoal Creek Boulevard. The center, which flooded during the historic 1981 Memorial Day Flood, was demolished in the late 2000s. At that time, the Parks and Recreation Department identified the site as a potential skate park.

The idea of the park worked well there, because the unique status of the land presented an issue for its use. Project Coordinator Gary Gregson said that because the area was in a flood plain, “we thought the skate park was a good use for the land, which couldn’t have been used for much else.”

To ensure its success, the department hired an internationally recognized skate park design company to envision the park. The company met early in the design process with the local skating and BMX community to receive input on the park’s design, features and facilities, then used this input to design today’s park.

Person riding a bike up a ramp

Challenging All Skill Levels

One necessary element identified by the public was the park’s ability to satisfy and challenge people of all skill levels. The City’s only skate park at that time, Mabel Davis Skate Park, was a technical park geared toward advanced users.

Gregson believes the Austin BMX and Skate Park filled this gap. “[The park] was designed with all skill levels in mind, so those from beginners to advanced skaters can find something to do,” he said.

 

Playing with Public Art

Person jumping a bike up a rampAnother appealing aspect of the park is its usable artwork. During the design process, the department worked with the Arts in Public Places Program to commission a local artist, Chris Levack, to produce two pieces of art for the park.

Today, this artwork isn’t just pretty to look at – it’s functional. Trilobite Shade provides respite from the hot Texas sun to park visitors. And according to Gregson, the Iron Wave, a rideable sculpture, has become a trademark of the site. Both pieces of artwork were recently nationally recognized for excellence among the best public artworks in the nation.

Location, Location, Location

Finally, visitors relish the fact that the park is centrally located, so it’s easily accessible from all parts of Austin, especially by public transportation. Gregson explained that this central location is very important to park-goers. “Skateboard enthusiasts are trying to promote all over the country that skate parks don’t have to be in an isolated, useless part of the town,” he said. “It’s not something you have to hide. It’s something you can have downtown that is accessible and appreciated by everyone.”

Park of the Month