On Monday night the people spoke!! While most speakers were limited to 1 minute, the message was loud and clear: restore and rewild Zilker Park, save Barton Springs, and send would-be construction dollars to benefit other Austin parks that have been neglected for too long.
If you were there, thank you!!! If not, the video of the meeting is posted here.
And the Parks Board did hear us. Claims from the for-profit and nonprofit operators that do business in Zilker Park that the public engagement process was extensive and honest was thoroughly debunked by Parks Board member and attorney Sarah Faust and by many of the speakers. Because of your actions, the Parks Board voted 6-2 to recommend the removal of the Zilker Park umbrella management organization from the Vision Plan! They agreed with all of us that an umbrella management organization would reduce transparency and accountability by putting the park in the hands of corporate donors and their whims at the expense of everyday park people.
While these for-profit and nonprofit park concessioners do much good work – renting boats, producing programs and events, and providing other services – many of them free to the general public – they showed their true colors last night. In doing so, they made it abundantly clear they should never be trusted with operating in Zilker Park behind the curtain of a “single point of contact” private, umbrella park manager.
These groups, led by the Austin Parks Foundation, which receives $8 million per year from ACL/Live Nation – money that should be going to the City—along with the Trail of Lights Foundation, the Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy, Zilker Theater Productions, and others are joined together as the “Zilker Collective.” Their representatives proclaimed how wonderful the public engagement process for the plan really was.
Indeed, it was truly great . . . for them. They enjoyed 5 or more private meetings with the City’s consultant and got everything they wanted to support their money-making ventures. Parking garages, new venues for year around money making, a bridge over Lady Bird Lake so ACL/LiveNation can expand their mega-event to park land north of the lake. What a great process!!
And guess what? There is zero evidence from the “extensive” public engagement that the public has even the slightest interest in transforming Zilker Park with the $200 million-plus of “improvements” baked into the draft plan. Indeed, the consultants haven’t bothered to compile or even consider the public input, much of it distorted by “push poll” questions about building expensive entertainment facilities rather than restoring and protecting the park and Barton Springs.
We give special thanks to Parks Board Chair Laura Cottam-Sajbel for making the motion and to Board member Sarah Faust for bringing the truth about the sham public process into the light.
The revised draft plan is now available here. The draft will be considered by other boards and commissions in the weeks and months ahead going to the city council.
Interested in learning more?? Join us this Sunday at 10:00 a.m. outside the back gate of Barton Springs (off of Azie Morton) for a walking tour of the eastern part of Zilker Park. We’ll have maps and other information on the draft plan. And urge friends and family to sign up for these email news alerts to stay informed and stay connected.