What’s your favorite park in Austin? Why?

Rich DePalma

City Council, District 8

I know our park system well. For over three years I have served as the
Vice-Chair of the Parks and Recreation Board, I’ve been to every
developed park in our system and each of our parks provides a different
experience. I love that about them. Of course, like most folks, I love Zilker
Park. I appreciate the history of the land (Col. Andrew Zilker, the Tonkawa
and Comanche settlements), the rumors (Coronado having rested there
while looking for El Dorado), its unique spaces (Zilker Hillside Theater, the
Botanical Gardens, etc.), and how the city and the world come together to
enjoy the oasis of Barton Springs Pool and events like ACL and the Zilker
Kite Festival. The park symbolizes so much that I appreciate: the public gift
of Barton Springs by Col. Zilker in 1917, the later donation of the rest of
Zilker Park in 1934 to the school district to permit it to raise money from
sale of the land to the city, the environmental protection of the springs, and
the protection of the Barton Springs salamander. When I am at Zilker, not
only do I see Austin’s past but I also see its future.

One Austin park will always have a special place in my soul: Dick Nichols
Park. Any park adopter will understand why. Dick Nichols is where I began
my park advocacy when I co-founded Friends of Dick Nichols Park in 2007
to address graffiti and issues with the playground. At our first It’s My Park
Day in 2007 we had over 80 volunteers. Since that time, our group has
grown to a list of over 300 volunteers that are the stewards of the park.
Over the years we have planted 100 trees, spread an unknown amount of
mulch, spread pounds of native wildflower seeds in the meadow, removed
graffiti, repainted everything multiple times over, coordinated art project
restorations, obtained funding from Austin Parks Foundation for the
playground shadescape, advocated for the replacement of a broken trail
workout system, and hosted over 24 events. Dick Nichols Park is where our
community comes together, seniors stay healthy, birthdays are celebrated,
kids and adults play, nature is protected, and where new friendships are
created. I enjoy being there with my boys but also appreciate the days
where I can just sit under an Escarpment Oak and watch how happy the
parks make all those who visit. I love this park and I am grateful for my
connection to it.