We’ve Moved!

30 04 2013

The Austin Parks Foundation blog has moved to our new website. You can find it here: http://austinparks.org/apf-blog.html

Thanks for all your support!

– APF team

National Public Lands Day 2012 Wrap-up

10 10 2012

Over 200 dedicated park lovers came out on Saturday, October 6, to volunteer for our annual National Public Lands Day volunteer event, co-hosted by the Hill Country Conservancy.  We are so proud to be a part of this wonderful national day of volunteering.  Groups all over the country are helping to restore natural ecosystems, remove invasive species, and general give back to the public lands that we enjoy all year long. Think of it as Mother’s Day for parks.

Volunteers worked on 11 projects around Austin on Saturday.  One of those projects was at the  North Star Greenbelt at Metric Blvd. and Braker Lane. Volunteers there worked on clearing out invasive Johnson grass from the creek. Johnson grass is a harmful invasive plant because it spreads rapidly, chokes out native plants, and clogs waterways.  Here’s how they did it!

This is what it looked like at the beginning of the day. Notice that you can’t even see the creek. This is some serious Johnson grass infestation:

They cut and cut and cut and cut and piled it all onto wheelbarrows and moved to mulch on top of other areas of Johnson grass. This helps kill the grass underneath and reduces the amount of cutting volunteers have to do in the future.

And when they were done…it looked like this!  It may not look like a big deal, but trust us…it is.

After a hard day of work, our volunteers deserved a party.  A huge thank you to Freebirds World Burrito for providing volunteers with tasty lunch and to Hill Country Conservancy for organizing and getting those hungry volunteers fed.

And Mayor Lee Leffingwell came!  What’s a party without the Mayor?

As with most of our volunteer events, we couldn’t do it without the support of many groups.  Shout outs to: Hill Country Conservancy, The City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department, American Youthworks Environmental Corps, REI, Inc., the Greenbelt Guardians, the Austin Ridge Riders, the Central Texas Trail Tamers, and the Central Texas Mountaineers. Thank you all for making this day a success!

If you missed it this year, mark you calendars for Saturday, September 28, 2013.  Show your parks some love.

It’s been a big year, Charlie Brown…I mean McCabe

10 10 2012

Let’s go back in time to November, 2011. Daniel Woodroffe, Charlie McCabe and I were enjoying a cup of coffee at Progress Coffee over on east 5th Street. The three of us tried to meet twice a month to discuss Foundation business, keep up on city gossip, and plan for the coming year.

That’s when Charlie dropped the bomb that he was going to leave APF, and for very honorable reasons, return to his hometown of Boston.  I felt all the blood rush out of my head…my worst nightmare as the new president of the Parks Foundation was happening.  What were we going to do?

The only good news was that he planned to stay till after It’s My Park Day…always held on the 1st Saturday in March…that gave us three months…plenty of time to find a replacement.  I don’t remember Daniel saying much…he might have…I don’t think I was hearing much that was said after the now famous lines, “I’m leaving the Foundation and looking for a job in Boston.”  Much of the rest of the morning was a blank.

Charlie actually ended up leaving at the end of January and two of the three remaining staff members were gone shortly after It’s My Park Day in March. Thank goodness Eric stayed.  He was, and is, a very competent person who held things together with the help and guidance of Gretchen Flatau, who came on board as Interim Executive Director and did an outstanding job.

You know, as I look back on those months, I realize that I don’t really know much about Eric.  We had a few talks at the office, mostly about business.  I wish I knew more about him personally. The Foundation owes him quite a lot.  If you could buy stock in people like you can buy stock on the stock exchange, let me give you a hot stock tip: buy a few shares of Eric Courchesne and hold them for the long term.  You’ll make money on that deal!

Anyway, we all made it through the madness. The whole process forced us to re-examine our organization and I am pleased to say that the Austin Parks Foundation has an exciting new direction, a great new leader in Colin Wallis – who comes to us after eight years with the Livestrong Foundation – and a great staff in Eric, Jessica, Bill and Kate.  I feel extremely fortunate to have been part of a very special year.

Thank you all,
Ralph Webster
Past President, Austin Parks Foundation

Behind Barton Springs Pool – 6 Months Later

3 02 2012

About six months ago, we were working with a number of great volunteers and an arborist to grind up all of the thousands of non-native ligustrums we had cut in a series of volunteer workdays outside of the fence on the south side of  Barton Springs Pool.  It was hot and dry.

The area looked like this:

Our piles of cut ligustrum looked like this:

We cut and treated all of the stumps and ground up all of the brush. And once everything was ground up, it looked like this.

Thanks to the rains and to the bare root sapling plantings coordinated by the Austin Parks & Recreation Dept’s forestry division and Treefolks, the area is greening up.  It now looks like this.

Grasses growing through the mat of mulch.

Final Barton Creek Trail Corps Report: 10,936 hours

30 01 2012

On Friday, we turned in our final report on the Barton Creek Trail Corps Report to our primary funder, Impact Austin.  We’re grateful to them, as well as our funders Hill Country Conservancy, Bicycle Sport Shop, REI, as well as our own Austin City Limits Music Festival Grant Fund.

Between September 2010 and December, we put in a total of 10,936 hours of work on 61 separate projects.  Our Barton Creek Trail Corps crew (from American Youthworks Environmental Corps), working from Jan through December of 2011, put in 6,393 hours, with our 1,841 volunteers putting in 4,543 hours on twenty seven separate workdays.

Here’s a short (no, really) list of what we accomplished on Barton Creek Greenbelt from September 2010 through December 2011:

Our Barton Creek Trail Corps crew hours total 6,393 and can be divided this way:

  • trail bushing and corridor clearing – 751 hours
  • invasives cutting, removal, chipping and treating – 1,250.75 hours
  • building / replacing rock steps – 686.25 hours
  • building armored drains / crossings – 850.75 hours
  • building retaining walls / creek banks – 1,385.75 hours
  • Trail tread work including drainage, de-berming, resurfacing – 584.25 hours
  • signage work and installation – 213.75 hours
  • Managing volunteers during workdays – 149.75 hours
  • The remaining time included rock gathering, post hole digging and fencing installation, removing old silt fencing, barbed wire and other hazards, helping re-surfacing the trail and decomposed granite parking lot at Loop 360 access, as well as GPSing, documenting and other tasks –541.25 hours.
Our  27 volunteer workdays with 1,841 volunteers working a total of 4,543 hours.  3,110 hours were spent cutting, yanking, stacking and dragging invasive species.  The remaining 1,433 hours were spent on trail tread and drainage projects including de-berming, rock popping, rock collections, gravel hauling, filling, packing holes and erosion and flood damage along the trail, cutting drainage channels, brushing along the trail and trash pick-up.
We’ll be posting our final report and recommendations at the end of this week, after we present on Friday at a session of the Texas Trails & Active Transportation Conference in San Antonio.
Thanks to our many partners, including Greenbelt Guardians, Central Texas Mountaineers, Central Texas Trail Tamers and the Austin Ridge Riders.

There’s more work to do, we have another American Youthworks E-Corps working this month on more invasive species removal and treatment and we will be sure to have a number of projects on It’s My Park Day on March 3, 2012.  We need more help to keep the greenbelt in shape. Please join us!

Executive Director leaving Austin Parks Foundation After Six Years of Mud, Sweat & Cheers

26 01 2012

For Immediate Release:  January 25, 2012      

Media Contacts:

Sara Beechner, Austin Parks Foundation

(Austin, TX)— The Austin Parks Foundation Executive Director Charlie McCabe is turning in his weed wrench and pruning saw and saying thank you and goodbye to thousands of volunteers who have made improvements to Austin’s 200+ parks and trails. McCabe is headed to Boston, Massachusetts where he will serve as Director of Public Programs for the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy (www.rosekennedygreenway.org).

“Charlie has an amazing gift in what seems to be an unlimited capacity to assist people. He’s become a master at how to get things done and lift up the parks to their fullest potential. He’s a true park hero and the city of Austin is a better place because of him,” said Ralph Webster, current Austin Parks Foundation Board President.

During his six years as Executive Director, McCabe made significant strides including:

  • Growing the annual It’s My Park Day from 940 volunteers doing 23 projects to 2,000+ volunteers working on 68 projects in 2011.
  • Increasing the Austin Parks Foundation grants program from $8,000 in 2005 to over $300,000 in grants in 2011, thanks to the support of the Austin City Limits Music Festival.  An additional $200,000 in matching funds was raised by park grantees, resulting in $500,000 in park improvements in 2011.
  • Leading the effort to design, fund and construct Phase 1 of improvements at Republic Square, including historic Auction Oak tree treatments, a carefully constructed deck and planting area surrounding the historic oaks, as well as new trees and grass on a re-leveled park site that hosts weekly Farmers’ Markets as well as events ranging from Yoga to outdoor movies.
  • Creating, funding and completing the Barton Creek Trail Corps project in 2011, resulting in nearly 11,000 hours in trail and restoration work along the 8.5 miles of the main Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail.  A crew of five worked full-time from Jan to Dec 2011, while over 1841 volunteers donated 4,543 hours at 27 separate volunteer workdays.  The project was done in collaboration with the City of Austin, Hill Country Conservancy and American Youthworks and many other volunteer groups. The major funder was Impact Austin.

The Austin Parks Foundation has engaged Greenlights for Nonprofit Success <http://www.greenlights.org/> to provide leadership transition support until a new, permanent Executive Director can be hired. Gretchen Flatau will serve as interim executive director. Flatau has extensive prior experience as an executive director, with posts at the Women’s Advocacy Project, Recording for the Blind, the Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin and College for All Texans.

About Austin Parks Foundation

Austin Parks Foundation has been protecting and preserving Austin’s parks by connecting people and resources to park improvements since 1992. In 2002, Austin Parks Foundation created It’s My Park Day to inspire community-wide public service focused on park improvement.  For more information, visit www.AustinParks.org.


1/28: First-Timer Meeting for It’s My Park Day Potential Project Leaders

11 01 2012

Hey there:

Well, it’s that time of year again: time to begin planning for It’s My Park Day! This year, the event proper is held on March 3rd. If you are interested in leading a work day at your favorite park and have never done so, please join us for our First-Timer Meeting on January 28, 2012. We are scheduled to meet at the Austin Recreation Center at 2p.

This meeting is also great to attend if you’ve led an It’s My Park Day project, but it’s been awhile since your last event. If you plan to attend, please RSVP via email to Becky@austinparks.org, with “First-Timer Meeting” in the subject line.

Looking forward to seeing you at the meeting!

For First-Timers and Veterans alike: our Project Leader Meeting will be on February 7 at 7:00p. More on that later…

Warm wishes,


WHAT: First-Timer Meeting for It’s My Park Day
WHEN: January 28, 2012, 2:00p – 3:30p
WHERE: Austin Recreation Center, 1301 Shoal Creek Boulevard, Austin, TX 78701
WHY: Because Austin’s parks rock — and so do you!
HOW: Walk, ride your bike, take the bus, drive — the options are endless…