Speaking of Zilker Park -- Real Austin Rides Again!!Monday night May 22nd may have been a turning point. People who love Austin, Zilker Park, and Barton Springs filled the City Council Chambers -- and the City Hall Lobby and part of the plaza outside. A few hundred people.
Almost all of them were there to tell the Austin Parks Board to ditch the City consultant’s draft plan to convert Zilker Park into even more of a private profit machine than it already is.
Overwhelmingly the people of Austin want Zilker Park – and all our parks – to simply be parks. Public parks. Public parks that belong to all of us. Places to connect with nature, play outside. Places with trails, swimming pools and natural waters, shade, ball fields and birds. Parks large and small to escape the stress and concrete of city life.
How do we know that’s what people want for our parks? Because that’s what residents from across the city have told the Parks Department over and over in recent years. A recent poll of residents from across all of Austin confirm this beyond any doubt and to a startlingly high degree of consensus.
And then we have what we-the-people told the Parks Board Monday night, all evening long, in heartfelt and too-short speeches, in songs, chants, and poetry. If you weren’t there, take some time to watch it here. You won’t be disappointed. The best reality tv was real Austin last Monday.
Don’t have time to watch it all? Catch Austin music legend Chris “Whipper” Layton speaking here or community leader Daniela Silva or David Weinberg.
Sure, we love the occasional special events that make our parks places to party, hear great music, celebrate sad sack donkeys and other beloved creatures. If Eeyore had been there Monday, he would have said “Wish I could say yes, but I can’t.”
We wish the City had brought forward a “vision plan” that we could say yes to. But they haven’t. To quote a former Parks Board Member, “this plan has less vision than an Austin Blind salamander.”
They have ignored the public and the City’s own Our Parks Our Future Long-Range Parks Plan. They have tossed aside our Austin Climate Equity Plan and Strategic Mobility Plan by calling for massive concrete construction projects, including three parking garages that would make Zilker Park even more car dependent than it is today.
Why would they do that? Because there’s just soooo much money to be made at Zilker Park. More private events. More private concessions. Year around concerts in a new five thousand seat amphitheater.
Old school park concessions? Forget that. The plan envisions destination restaurants licensed by a private “umbrella” manager. And the prize for Barton Springs Conservancy leader Mike Cannatti? – a grand beer garden for year around drinking. The $60 million-plus parking garages are not for park users or Barton Springs swimmers – we didn’t ask for them. They are for paying customers.
Thankfully, the public is not having any of it. Or, to be accurate, about 85% of the public is not having it.
Of the few people speaking in favor of the draft plan Monday night almost all of them were employees or board members of the for-profit and nonprofit entities doing business in Zilker Park.
We now need your help more than ever. The Parks Board majority endorsed the plan with three members voting against. But the city council makes the final decision.
Mark your calendar for Thursday, July 20th when the Austin City Council will consider the proposed Zilker Park Vision Plan. The only way they change course is if we show them how much Austin really cares with the biggest crowd ever at city hall.
Between now and then tell your friends and family to save July 20th for a historic night at City Hall. Keep up with these SOS email news alerts; sign up for Rewild Zilker updates; and join us for upcoming walk-and-learn and swim-and-learn gatherings at Zilker Park.
And if you are able, donate today to Save Our Springs Alliance.