Ensuring equitable access to quality parks for all Austinites is a key priority for Austin Parks Foundation. How might you work as a decision-maker for both your district and the city as a whole to move the needle on equitable access to quality parks?

Rich DePalma

City Council, District 8

Equitable access to quality parks can be measured multiple ways. One way
is whether there is a public park within a 10 minute walk or within a 1?4
mile to 1?2 mile from homes. Under this definition, we have park
deficiencies across the city with District 4 being the most park deficient
district (at least until the Red Leaf development is built out at Highland
Mall). In District 8, we have park deficiencies around the Scenic Brook
neighborhood area along Highway 71, past the Oak Hill Y.

There is much more to equitable access than green space (albeit that is
extremely important). In 2013, I was invited to serve on the Austin Parks
Foundation board of directors. At that time, I started questioning whether
our park system was accessible and equitable. Unfortunately, there was
not much data available so I started compiling the data myself, looking at
the availability of aquatic facilities, basketball courts, free tennis courts, ball
fields, soccer fields, playgrounds, senior centers, and recreation centers.
There is still much more data needed and to be analyzed but I was
surprised at my findings – it contradicted what I was hearing. What the data
showed was that most of North and South Austin had the least amount of
park and recreation investment. SW
Austin had very little investment. There is one pool (two if counting Barton
Springs), no senior center, no recreation center, two basketball courts,
three ball fields, and four playgrounds (if counting Zilker Park). This is
especially concerning around the Oak Hill Y area where we have a
concentration of mobile homes, public housing and nonprofit affordable
housing. These seniors and kids are being left out of the discussion.
Another item of frustration for me relating to accessibility is the lack of an
All Abilities/Inclusive Play Park at a City of Austin park. Round Rock, San
Antonio and many cities both large and small have implemented All
Abilities parks and Austin has not. Our friends of at the YMCA in SW Austin
just received a grant from Target and Kaboom to install an All Abilities
playscape at their facility. I am excited about that park but we need such
parks all over the city. Every child deserves to be a child and to engage
with other kids, to explore and to smile. Over the years I have advocated
for these inclusive playgrounds at Dick Nichols and Zilker Park. This week,
I was excited about the draft playscape and play equipment at Dick Nichols
Park that will be more inclusive. We still need to find the funding for the
rubber surface which is around $75,000. This will allow children in
wheelchairs or other mobility challenges to access the play equipment.
What I love about the Parks and Recreation Department is that it has an
excellent and dedicated staff. This was not always the case. The staff is
only limited by funding, staffing and the city’s bureaucracy. Each
improvement we make to any of those items allows the Parks Department
to better leverage community, nonprofit, for-profit and intergovernmental
partnerships for the
betterment of the parks system.
I support addressing the challenges found in the June 2018 Equity

Assessment Tool Pilot Report. I support implementing existing plans such
as the 2014 Urban Trail Master Plan along with the YBC Trail and the
Williamson Creek Trail which I am working on.