The City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD), in collaboration with Austin Parks Foundation (APF), is preparing to design and develop an All Abilities Playground at Onion Creek Metropolitan Park, a priority identified in the 2015 Onion Creek Metropolitan Park Master Plan. The purpose of the project is to create a destination public playground that would serve residents of all ages and all abilities. Recognizing that most playgrounds aren’t designed for everyone, the mission is to create a welcoming, accessible, and inclusive playground where everyone can enjoy the magic of play. The universally inclusive playground will provide opportunities to connect with nature and will be designed for multi-generational use, so parents and grandparents with disabilities may utilize and interact with friends and family members on the playground. This project is in the concept phase. City Council District 2

Community Engagement Opportunities:

Concept Phase 

  • Community Meeting (virtual): May 2, 2024, 6:30 p.m. Register here.

Image of field in Onion Creek Metropolitan Park, site of where future playground will go


Located in Southeast Austin, Onion Creek Metropolitan Park covers 517 acres and is split into northern and southern sections. These sections are joined by the 250-acre Onion Creek Greenbelt, predominantly situated north of Onion Creek. The City of Austin acquired the southern part in the late 1990s, while the northern part, belonging to the Lower Onion Creek Flood Buyout, was integrated in 2019. While largely untouched, the park boasts nature trails, groomed pathways, pavilions, restrooms, and open play areas. The neighboring greenbelt offers more nature trails, a playground, picnic spots, a creek crossing, and an off-leash zone. In 2015, the Parks and Recreation Department, together with Austin Parks Foundation, finalized the Vision Plan for Onion Creek Metropolitan Park, which was subsequently approved by the City Council. Since 2019, the portion of the park under consideration for the All Abilities Playground has been maintained by the Onion Creek Metro Park District. More information about the vision plan and Onion Creek Metro Park District formation may be found at the Onion Creek Metropolitan Park webpage.

Project Description

The joint effort by PARD and APF is underway to conceptualize the All Abilities Playground in the park's southern region. This project strives to be the City of Austin's first truly universally accessible public playground, focusing on children with disabilities, integrating unique designs and varied program options.

The Plan for Onion Creek Metropolitan Park emphasizes the guiding principles and design values for the All Abilities Playground. These guidelines encompass:

  • Prioritizing environmental sustainability, promoting accessibility to untouched natural spaces, fostering community ties, and enhancing connections to regional parks, trails, cultural initiatives, and educational ventures.
  • Leveraging water as a central element in the project's design and organization.
  • Categorizing the park's ambiance into four main themes: Natural, Passive, Active and Cultural.
  • Encouraging inclusiveness for individuals of all age groups, capabilities, socioeconomic backgrounds and varied interests.
  • Recognizing the role of ecology in molding the park's identity and character.
  • Using the natural topography as a basis to foster diverse plant life and habitats.
  • Valuing public opinions and striving for a design that resonates with a "natural" character.

Project Objectives

The design strategy and community engagement for the All Abilities Playground aims to build upon insights gathered from the 2015 Master Plan. This approach underscores the importance of addressing the unique needs and concerns of those often overlooked by traditional park designs. Special emphasis will be given to individuals and families with differing abilities, including mobility-related, hearing, visual, autism and other sensory conditions.

The playground will be universally accessible and inclusive to all visitors, particularly children with disabilities and special needs, and it will feature innovative design and programming opportunities. The design objectives seek to:

  • Respond directly to the community’s desires and needs
  • Reflect the natural landscape and ecology of Onion Creek. Integrate characteristics defined in the adopted vision plan.
  • Design based on community engagement outcomes.
  • Provide an inclusive play area with accessible (and inclusive) restroom facilities and picnic pavilions (shade)
  • Drive connections and parking.
  • Incorporate innovative stormwater solutions and methods of maintenance.
  • Connect pedestrian trails to park and adjacent communities.
  • Achieve SITES certification.

Anticipated Schedule

  1. Discovery Phase: January to February 2024 (Complete)
  2. Concept Phase: March to June 2024 (In Progress)

Schematic Design through Construction Phases are to be determined.

Community Engagement

Concept Phase

Virtual Community Meeting: May 2, 2024, 6:30 p.m.

Small Group Conversations: April 8 to 12, 2024


Discovery Phase

Virtual Community Meeting: January 18, 2024, 6:30 p.m.

Community Survey | Encuesta Comunitaria (closed February 22)

Small Group Conversations: January 29 to February 2, 2024

  • Report of Community Survey and Small Group Conversations: View here (PDF)

Funding and Resources

The primary sources of funding for construction will be a capital campaign and private contributions. Additionally, grants and other forms of public financing, including parkland dedication fees, are expected to support the initiative.

Contact Information

For more information, contact Charles Mabry, Project Manager, by email or phone at (512) 974-9481.