SRCC has received a grant from the Austin Parks Foundation that will be used to improve our neighborhood’s new ‘pocket park’, Heritage Oaks Park. The park is located in SRCC Area 7 at the corner of Parker Lane and Windoak Drive (see map below). The grant will fund installation of picnic tables, trash receptacles, benches, a trail loop and ramp access to meet ADA requirements. Austin Parks Foundation is a partner in the project and will provide, in addition to the funds, many resources including support of workdays in the park, signage and guidance in successful park development. The park is distinguished by 4 magnificent heritage oaks located on a central high point. The west end slopes gently to a riparian growth zone and pond. Users of the park can enjoy the generous shade, the views from key vantage points, and two open areas. Dogs on leash are welcomed.
Acronym Alert: SRCC; EROC. See footnote at end of article.
You may remember the property at 2100 Parker Lane as a private residence notable for the large colonial style house. The transformation from a residence to a city park was an 8-year effort by neighborhood residents active in the area planning teams** and SRCC members, notably Toni House, Fred Krebs, Gayle Goff, Linda Land and Helen Fleming. In 2003, EROC and SRCC recommended that the property be considered for purchase by the City of Austin as a park. At that time, it was for sale for less than $400,000. Neither the City’s Planning and Zoning Department nor PARD supported the combined neighborhoods’ recommendation. Undaunted, the organizations continued to make the case that this is a densely populated area of the City that lacks sufficient parkland and the best use of this property was as a park.
Several years later, the first application for an up-zoning of the 2100 Parker Lane property to a higher density use was filed. The highly contested up-zoning was granted in April 2006, but due to the combined efforts of SRCC, Pleasant Valley and Parker Lane residents, the City imposed a public restrictive covenant prohibiting the removal of all trees on the property having a circumference of 60 inches or more, measured four and one-half feet above natural grade.
During the summer of 2006, the property owner filed an application to up-zone the adjoining lots where the pond is located (1701 and 1703 Windoak Drive). Prior to the case being heard by City Council, SRCC was successful in convincing Mike Lyday, a Senior Environmental Scientist of the City’s Watershed Protection and Development Review Department, to perform a wetland assessment of the property. Mr. Lyday designated the area as a wetland critical environmental feature (CEF). Although highly contested, the up-zoning was granted, however the CEF designation provided some additional protection for the property.
In the summer of 2010, the property owner’s agent contacted Fred Krebs, SRCC Area 7 Coordinator, regarding whether SRCC would support the possible acquisition by PARD of the 2100 Parker Lane, 1701 and 1703 Windoak Lane properties for a pocket park. SRCC, Parker Lane and Pleasant Valley residents had never stopped lobbying for the purchase of this property as a park, and quickly stepped up these efforts. To express the neighborhood’s support for the purchase, emails were sent and meetings held with PARD staff, Parks Board members, Neighborhood Planning staff and City Council members. When negotiations between PARD and the property owner stalled, more emails were submitted and SRCC members met with Council Members Laura Morrison and Chris Riley in an attempt to get things moving again.
Finally, in December 2011, PARD and the property owner reached agreement on the purchase price and the planning began in earnest. An early participant in the Adopt-A-Park program, the neighborhood formed Friends of Parker Lane Park. To commemorate the majestic heritage oaks, the property was named Heritage Oaks Park in 2012. Helen Fleming recruited neighbors and organized workdays and projects such as removing litter, preparing soil for planting wildflowers, and adding mulch. Now neighbors will be working with Urban Forestry to plant native slow growth hardwood trees. It is recognized that certain areas, especially the pond, should remain wildlife habitats. The pond is spring fed and home to a healthy population of mosquito-eating fish. The pond area also provides migratory shelter for egrets, occasional foxes and other wildlife. Neighbors will work with Grow Zone coordinators to develop a long-term riparian plan that will conserve the delicate ecological balance. SRCC is grateful to the Austin Parks Foundation for awarding this generous grant and being a partner with the neighborhood in improving and conserving Heritage Oaks Park.
About Austin Parks Foundation
Austin Parks Foundation (APF) is dedicated to improving the quality of life for the 1.8 million people living in Austin and across Travis County by strengthening the region’s parks system, which spans more than 27,000 acres. A non-profit established in 1992, APF fosters innovative public/private partnerships to develop, maintain and enhance the area’s 300 parks, trails and open spaces. Since 2006, APF has given over 120 grants totaling more than $1.5 million in service to the greater Austin community. APF is known for its annual flagship volunteer event, It’s My Park Day, and is a presenting partner of the popular Austin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker Park. For more information, please visit www.austinparks.org.
**SRCC – South River City Citizens Neighborhood Association; EROC – E. Riverside / Oltorf / Combined Neighborhood Planning Area; note: EROC includes the planning areas of Parker Lane Neighborhood Planning Area (NPA) and Pleasant Valley NPA, in addition to the Riverside NPA, in which SRCC Areas 6 & 7 are located.