Every day, we work with volunteers from neighborhoods all over town. And every day we marvel at their dedication, perseverance, and accomplishments.
From building new trails by hand to raising thousands of dollars for new playground equipment, our volunteers have an incredible impact on Austin’s parks. This year, we honor a few of our volunteers with Park Volunteer of the Year awards. They are Nadene Morning, Alice Penney, Jerry Levenson, Gardner Sumner, Roger Meador, and Kathleen McMullen.
Nadene’s commitment and enthusiasm for improving Austin’s parks are absolutely unquenchable.
Nadene is out in the park with her own personal weed wrench, tearing up ligustrum by the roots, 5 days a week. Over the past few years, she’s spearheaded invasives removal at Perry Park, Red Bud Isle, and Mayfield Preserve. Along the way, she’s engaged and educated hundreds of volunteers, multiple Eagle Scouts, and other community members.
We’ve learned a lot from Nadene about how to tackle big projects efficiently, and we look forward to many more years of working together.
Garner is known as the most dedicated member of the Zilker Neighborhood Park Committee. Despite having lived in the Zilker neighborhood for just a couple of years, he has thrown himself into the work there, with a particular focus on planting and caring for trees.
Under his leadership, 70 trees have been planted, and he watered them all each and every week. He helped organize and plan a huge irrigation project. He’s engaged hundreds of volunteers in mulching days in the spring and fall.
In the words of Kim McKnight, who nominated him, “Garner is a great example of someone who never tires of giving to their community.”
Nominated by Linda Jones and Beth Berning Mobley call Alice, “the beating heart of the Friends of Copperfield Nature Trails.” Alice’s dedication is unmatched, surpassing all expectations of a great neighborhood volunteer. At countless work days she is always the first one there and the last one to leave.
Just a few of her recent accomplishments are:
• Leading volunteers to complete a mile-long trail,
• Leading Copperfield to become first certified Green Neighborhood in Austin,
• Beautifying and clearing entrance to the park,
• Spearheading efforts to create a pocket park at the other end of the trail
• Raising thousands of dollars for the park
Gardner Sumner, Nadene Morning and Alice Penney
When Kathleen first conceived of a project to overhaul Dottie Jordan park, the neighbors had given up hope for the city taking interest in their park. But Kathleen persevered, and has been tireless in the face of neighborhood apathy and parks department delays. Under her leadership, the park now has a walking trail, new tables and bbq grills, and many other improvements. Hundreds of volunteers have participated, and the neighborhood is now cheering her on and helping her out.
The neighborhood association president and vice president, Al Weber and Lou O’Halon, wrote in her nomination:
“Kathleen is truly our unsung hero. Although we have also recognized her in our own small way, we can never fully repay her for her service to her community. She is truly one of a kind – and a lovely individual.”
Jerry lives to remove invasive species of trees and plants from our greenbelts. He has a specific focus on ligustrum, but chinaberry doesn’t escape his grasp either. Jerry has been volunteering on Bull Creek Greenbelt for a number of years and having recently retired from IBM, has been devoting most weekdays in expanding his quest beyond Bull Creek. Using only handsaws and a pole pruner, Jerry has recently teamed up with Nadene Morning and they have celebrated the recent successes of removing 95 percent of all invasives from Red Bud Isle and have tackled another 8 acres at Mayfield Preserve. That’s a lot of ligustrum.
Jerry is patient and persistent, he teaches many volunteers how to approach invasive removal, focusing on both safety as well as the importance of the work at hand. He’s always willing to stay just a little bit longer and take out one last tree.
For years, Roger has been the technical wizard behind our Find a Park database. He continues to tweak it to make it more useful to us as administrators, and to the public at large who are looking for park information. The parks database is a huge resource for Austin. We get many, many emails and calls about the information it contains, and it puts Austin Parks Foundation near the top of any Google search for any austin park.