In partnership with community partners, the Parks and Recreation Department has installed nature play features across Austin's parks in an effort to increase the opportunity for children and families to engage with the natural world. The first round of parks to have this installation focus on areas of Austin that are considered “nature deficient,” including MLK Station Neighborhood Park. This project is substantially complete. District 1

Update

The nature play area is complete and open to the public as of May 2022!

Background

In March of 2016, the City of Austin was one of seven cities nationwide selected to receive a planning grant from the project partners for Cities Connecting Children to Nature. The grant funded a six-month strategic planning process that brought together representatives from ten city departments, Austin Independent School District (AISD), the health sector, and nonprofit organizations in order to create a 3-year Implementation Plan that identifies how city leadership can provide abundant and equitable access to nature for the children of Austin, with a specific focus on children in low-income communities and children of color.

To achieve these goals, the Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) conducted extensive research and mapping to identify areas of Austin with the largest gaps in nature equity. This informed the selection of the areas where priority implementation strategies are focused.

The addition of nature play features throughout our parks system also helps meet the City’s Strategic Direction 2023 through the Health & Environment outcome, whose goal is for citizens to enjoy a sustainable environment and a healthy life, physically and mentally.

Project Description

This project focused on adding nature play features at MLK Station Neighborhood Park for families to enjoy. The features, which include stump jumps, climbing logs, loose parts play and seating areas, are constructed of reclaimed wood and local stone, in keeping with the existing natural character of the park. Over the past several months, PARD gathered input, developed and designed a park plan, and built new nature play features at the park.

The initial phase of construction included invasive species management, improvement of the creek crossing, site cleanup, and installation of logs and nature play features. Phase two included installing additional nature play features and design improvements.

Objectives:

  • Provide play opportunities in an area that is otherwise unsuitable for a traditional playscape due to floodplain restrictions
  • Increase opportunity for children to interact with the natural world

Anticipated Schedule

  • January 2020 to February 2020: Conducted community engagement (complete)
  • March 2020 to June 2021: Developed and designed a park plan (complete)
  • Spring 2022: Construction began (complete)
  • Summer 2022: New features available for public use (complete)

Community Engagement

One community meeting was held at the start of this project for a hands-on look at various nature play options and to gather input on feature selection. An additional meeting was held prior to construction to present the final design and discuss how input was incorporated.

Community Meeting #1 
January 25, 2020

MLK Station Neighborhood Park
2907 East MLK Jr Blvd, 78702 (Meet @ East 16th St and Clifford Ave)
The purpose of this meeting was to gather input from the neighborhood on nature play feature options for the park and provide hands-on nature play opportunities.

Results from Community Engagement #1:

Park design built by a child, displaying top ranked features from this activity, which include things to climb, things to jump across, and trees.

Example park design built by a child, displaying some of the top-ranked features from this activity (things to climb, things to jump across, trees).

Top ranked features, displaying children's favorites on the left (music, balance log, sand), adult's favorites on the right (quiet space, dramatic play, native plants), and cross-over favorites of both children and adults (hut, fort-building).

Top-ranked features, displaying children's favorites on the left (music, balance log, sand), adult's favorites on the right (quiet space, dramatic play, native plants), and cross-over favorites of both children and adults (hut, fort-building).

Community Meeting #2 (Virtual)
March 27, 2021

MLK Station Nature Play Schematic including a music feature, play berm/stage, balance logs and small seating boulders, and "nest" feature.

Funding & Resources

This project was funded through Parkland Dedication Funds.

Contact

For more information, please contact, contact Melody Alcazar, Program Coordinator, Parks and Recreation by email or by phone at 512-974-9466.