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Austin faces challenge to provide enough parkland for growing population

Austinites are getting a say in the future of city parks. Five community meetings are being held from November 8-14 to let the public share ideas about how to improve parks, facilities and programming. (Photo:Bettie Cross)

Austinites are getting a say in the future of city parks. Five community meetings are being held from November 8-14 to let the public share ideas about how to improve parks, facilities and programming. In mid-November, an online survey will give park users another chance to weigh-in on the Our Parks, Our Future long range plan for the recreation system.

The importance of spending time in nature isn't lost on Sara Villanueva.

“I'm a psychologist. I'm a psychology professor,” said Villanueva.

The professor at St. Edward's University comes down to Lady Bird Lake three or four times a week.

“It just helps me to stay calm and even. I love it,” said Villanueva.

Her vision for the future of Austin's parks is to create more spaces like the downtown hike and bike trail.

“A little more preserving of the natural space and I especially would love to see a little more around the water,” said Villanueva.

Austin has more than 300 parks and 200 miles of trails. But it's not enough.

“We're the fastest growing city of our size in the country, the 11th largest, so keeping up with parkland is a huge goal of ours,” said Kim McKnight, a City of Austin park planner.

In 2014, Austin had 23 acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents. This year that number has dropped to 20 acres and Austin's population just keeps growing.

“We need to be very aggressive in land acquisition if we're going to be able to provide adequate park space for the future generations of Austinites,” said McKnight.

Little Augustus Smith is part of the next generation that could benefit from a Parks Master Plan.

“It's just nice for them to be able to run around,” said Justin Smith, a father of two.

Five community meetings and an online public survey will be used to shape a vision for city parks for the next 10 years.

“We've lived in Dallas, San Antonio, Houston and all the cities are making a push to have more green space, but I think Austin is by far the best,” said Smith.

Keeping it that way, is why the city is giving everyone a voice in picking the right path for future development.

The Our Parks, Our Future community meetings will be held from November 8-14 at recreation centers across the city.

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