Austin Parks

Undeclared natural sciences junior Victor Encarnacion and architectural engineering junior Thanos Metaxas help build flower beds around a tree at Martin Middle School on Saturday afternoon. The Project, otherwise known as UT’s “largest day of service,” has been an annual event since 1999.
Photo Credit: Andy Nguyen | Daily Texan Staff

Despite dealing with multiple delays and cancellations because of inclement weather, more than 800 UT student volunteers met and performed service work for Austin’s Holly and East Cesar Chavez neighborhoods Saturday.

The Project, a program the Longhorn Center for Community Engagement runs, organized UT’s “largest day of service.” Students raked leaves, picked up trash and built flower beds after a two-hour delay. The volunteers were unable to carry out or complete many of the planned service projects, such as painting houses, because of the delay.

Math senior Javier Polo said about 2,000 student volunteers registered for The Project, but only 860 volunteers attended because the organization cancelled the afternoon shift, and shuttle buses were unable to transport students to the volunteer site.

“Since we weren’t able to bring hundreds of students from UT here to the neighborhood, we decided to focus all the resources to not all the sites, but to specific sites that had the most work that needed to be done and needed the most manpower,” Polo said.

Lori Renteria, a committee chair in the East Cesar Chavez Planning Team, said volunteers worked on repairing 25 homes for veterans and people with disabilities. Renteria said the students will have to return to complete the repairs and paint the homes as well.

Joe Washington, Austin Parks and Recreation community liaison, said the Austin community depends on the work of volunteer-based service organizations, such as The Project.

“Just the city staff and the tax dollars alone — that’s not enough to address all the needs we have in the community. We depend — the city and the community — on volunteer groups,” Washington said.

Public health senior Alyssa Koeter, a member of UT service fraternity Texas Alpha Phi Omega, said she has seen the impact The Project has made in the East Austin community.

“I’ve done this project at least three year in a row, and every time I come back, it seems like there’s always work to do, but every time I come back, I can see the difference we made the previous years,” Koeter said. “As long as we keep doing this every year, we’ll impact little parts of the community, and overall, within the next 10–20 years, we’ll see a big impact throughout the entire community.”

Photo Credit: Crystal Marie Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

Austin is known to be a city with strict smoking regulations, but this weekend’s Fun Fun Fun Fest will be an exception.

The city council authorized five designated smoking areas Thursday for the festival grounds, something the council has done for various events in parks for the past two years.

“The organizer will be setting up designated smoking areas within the event,” said Jason Maurer, Austin Parks and Recreation sales and events manager. “Basically like a beer garden, but for smokers.”

A city ordinance banning smoking in indoor public places passed in 2005, but the council amended it in 2011 to include parks, trails and green spaces, according to city spokesperson Cassandra DeLeon.

The 2011 amendment included a provision allowing exceptions for special events at the organizer’s request. Organizers from this year’s FFF Fest requested this exception.

“It’s not the city doing it,” Maurer said. “It is the event requesting permission under the city smoking ordinance to have a designated zone at a public event where people can smoke.”

Maurer said if the city is in a burn ban, smoking would not be allowed at all, even in designated areas.

“If you’re in a burn ban, it kind of trumps everything and there’s no smoking allowed period, regardless if there’s a smoking zone at an event,” Maurer said. “I know the reggae festival has had smoking zones before … But it really can vary year by year depending on the climate conditions and whether or not we’re in a burn ban. Sometimes we’re in a burn ban for like six months, so it could be a long period of time where you couldn’t even have a smoking zone if you wanted to.”

The city of Austin’s most recent burn ban was lifted Sept. 20, according to the Travis County Fire Marshall’s website.

Maurer said the smoking zones are enforced by the event organizers, but if the city receives any complaints, they will respond to ensure the enforcement is effective.

“You’ll hear a few complaints on each side, after an event someone saw someone smoking outside of an event, outside of a space sometimes,” Maurer said. “There’s just that kind of minor stuff, but I’ve not really heard any big opposition to it.”

Radio-television-film freshman Bridget King said she thinks designated smoking areas are reasonable.

“I think that’s fair because obviously there should be a place for people who do smoke, for them to do that, but it shouldn’t be bothering anyone else,” King said. “If people aren’t into that, then they shouldn’t have to deal with it.”

Speech pathology sophomore Nisha George said she approves of the zones, but thinks they may not be fair.

“Cigarette smoke makes me [nauseated], so I always appreciate smoking zones a lot,” George said. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean I think people should have to go somewhere else to smoke.”

A crowd cheers as Kendrick Lamar performs at the Honda Stage on Saturday during ACL Weekend One.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

With weekend one behind us, weekend two of Austin City Limits Music Festival has many festival-goers feeling apprehensive. As much as we all need our annual dose of jorts, braided hair and homogenous indie music, hosting ACL for two consecutive weekends isn’t all sunshine, rainbows and rockstars. Even before the festival kickoff, there was serious skepticism in regard to logistics about the second weekend. On one hand, it makes sense. Every year, ACL brings approximately $102 million into the city’s economy, mostly due to tourism. The number is still rising, according to figures published by C3 Presents, the company that manages the festival. 

Two weekends of ACL means more tourists enjoying more music and buying more merchandise, therefore supporting more local businesses citywide. In terms of an economic boost for
Austin businesses, the concept of two weekends is a great one. 

Questions were raised as to whether or not keeping the same lineup for both weekends was a good idea. The purpose was to bring in more money, as well as to provide double the opportunities for people to attend the festival. If C3 was to alter the lineup and trade out the headliners, ACL might attract both newcomers and people returning for weekend two. 

Most likely, two different lineups would have brought in more ticket sales. This makes ACL a little too similar to South By Southwest. The solution here would be to bring back the one-day passes, which the festival eliminated this year. Although selling only 3-day passes brings in more money per person, it also discourages those who may not be familiar with the each
day’s lineup. 

It’s also important to consider the physical state of Zilker Park post-ACL. By the last headliner on Sunday night, the beautifully manicured grass has given way to patches of trampled mud, with most areas covered in a substantial layer of litter. So far, it seems C3 and Austin Parks and Recreation has taken this into account. During weekend one, festival volunteers passed out large trash bags and encouraged everyone to fill them with empty cans and bottles in exchange for festival merchandise, a great incentive to keep the park clean in preparation for the second weekend.

Another concern is the quality of music the first weekend versus the second. Speaking as a first-weekend attendee, the festival’s quality was excellent, just as it has been every year. Yes, the crowds were overwhelming and there may have been long lines for food and Porta Potties, but the musicians were always on par.

With so many of the performers staying in and around Austin for their week between, they may not have the same energy and excitement for performing at the festival one more time. The bands certainly don’t have to play the same set list or make the same banter in-between songs. Nevertheless, it’s reasonable to assume that after a week of having a good time around town, some musicians may not be performing on the same level as they were when they first stepped foot in Austin. 

Don’t be discouraged second-weekend festival-goers, just remember that this is a brand new Austin experience.

Auditorium Shores will host only one more event, Fun Fun Fun Fest, until Feb. 2015 while the park undergoes renovations. 

Terry Jungman, representative from the Austin Parks and Recreation department, said improvements to the park will include new drought-tolerant grass, a new irrigation system and a larger dog park area. He said they are necessary for Auditorium Shores to continue to sustain its high number of visitors.

“[If] you take a look at the health of the turf grass and the health of the trees, just the general landscape — it’s degrading, and it’s happening rather quickly,” Jungman said. “So it’s important that we step in and do these improvements to bring balance back to the park.”

Anne Palone, a landscape architecture graduate student who uses the park, said she thinks Auditorium Shores has the potential to be more than a dog park but needs improvements first.

“In my experience, Auditorium Shores is dominated by the dog park, which is great, but there’s almost no shade, the grass is dead and dry, and there’s nowhere to stop and enjoy the view of downtown Austin,” Palone said. “Usually it’s just a place that people on the Lady Bird Lake Trail are moving through, not stopping to spend time.”

Jungman said students will benefit from the renovated park because students make up a large part of the audience during concerts and festivals that take place there.

“It’s creating a renovated space that [students] can go out and enjoy, and it’s part of bringing in new students,” Jungman said. “It’s a new attraction for the city, and it’s something that has been deteriorating over the years. You’re going to have this fresh new space that should bring people in.”

City officials will close the middle lawn area of the park in the next two weeks in order to begin installing an irrigation system, a project which will last until November, Jungman said.

Once the irrigation system is finished, the next step will involve relocating the off-leash dog zone to an area next to the Lady Bird Lake shore — a project that will last from Nov. to July. During this time, a temporary off-leash region will be available in the middle section of the park.

Auditorium Shores’ running trail, which will be slightly realigned to make room for the dog park’s new location, is between the current dog park and the shore. This causes problems for both runners and dogs, said Bill Fraser, a representative for Friends of Austin Dog Parks.

“We have trail traffic moving east and west, and we have dogs moving north and south — all intersecting at a single common point in the park,” Fraser said. “By relocating the dog park to the west end of the park, we eliminate this dangerous intersection.”

The $3,500,000 project is funded entirely by C3 Presents, a music festival producer.

Correction: Because of a reporting error, a quote about the benefits to students was misattributed. Terry Jungman, Austin Parks and Recreation department representative, said the quote.

This Swedish log cabin built in 1638 will soon undergo restoration to preserve the historical site. The restorations on the cabin, which is currently located in Zilker Botanical Gardens, will begin this year and are expected to last until 2013.

Photo Credit: Nathan Goldsmith | Daily Texan Staff

One of the oldest pieces of restored architecture in Austin’s history, which served various duties during the 1800s, will soon undergo a major revival with the help of local historians.

Through a $43,000 heritage grant from the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau, Austin Parks and Recreation will foster the restoration project of a cabin located at Zilker Botanical Gardens, which will begin in 2012 with an expected duration of one year.

Because the cabin is one of the oldest buildings in Austin, visitors can enjoy a taste of Swedish culture amidst the multiple historical buildings present at Zilker Park, said Margaret Russell, the culture and arts program manager at Zilker Botanical Gardens.

“The proposed work with the grant funds will redirect the draining waters, will reinforce the bottom logs and will redo the chinking,” Russell said. “There will also be work done on repairing the headers, threshold and windows and doors to contribute to the longevity. Age more than anything is what created the need of repairs on this historical 174-year-old cabin.”

She said the city has maintained the outside of the cabin, while the Texas Swedish Pioneers Association and restoration advocate Barbara Pate take care of the furnishings inside. Both will continue to work together to maintain the cabin, Russell said. In 1965 the cabin was moved to its present location by the TSPA, who also collected the authentic pioneer furnishings on view inside the structure, she said. Before the cabin was in Zilker Botanical Gardens, the cabin was located in Nelson Park in Round Rock, a location where the Swedish immigrants gathered for celebrations and meetings during the 1800s.

Randy Lewis, associate professor of American Studies, said he visited Zilker Botanical Gardens a few weeks ago and saw that the log cabin restoration was a valuable effort that could be appreciated by future generations.

“Would you rather read a book about the woods or go walking in them?” he said. “Going back to Thoreau and Whitman, Americans have celebrated direct experience. Because we live in a superficial mass culture in which so much seems fake, Americans often hunger for authenticity and the greater depth of meaning history can provide.”

Visiting historical sites like the Swedish pioneer cabin allows one to take the time to breath and take in the big picture that goes far beyond dollars and cents, he said.

“It also gives one the time to wrestle with the real questions of society: What have we lost and what have we achieved as a culture?” Lewis said. “Our society needs to think before paving over its inheritance, whether in the natural world or the built environment. Every act of preservation defines us as a culture: We are what we preserve.”

Pate, whose great-grandmother was born in the cabin, told Russell the history of the home. The house represents the Swedish log cabin structure, but was built by a Scotsman named J.J. Grumbles in 1638. It was then purchased by Swedish immigrant S.M. Swenson who was responsible for an influx of Swedish immigration in Texas. Swenson at one time owned 128,000 acres in Travis County, with twelve blocks of real estate concentrated along Congress Avenue, and started the SMS Cattle Company, which still operates today, Russell said.

During Swenson’s ownership, the cabin was located near Highway 183 and Interstate Highway 35 along the Colorado River, Russell said. The log cabin was then occupied by a cousin of Swenson’s, a member of the Gustaf Palm family, from 1853 through the Civil War, she said. They transported the cabin to their new home at the intersection of 14th Street and San Jacinto Boulevard to be used as a wash house, she said. When the property was sold, the house was dismantled by Swenson’s nephew Louis Palm, who moved it to a farm where it was reassembled and was later relocated to Nelson Park.

Advertising sophomore Benjamin Rothenberg said he has visited Zilker Botanical Gardens in the past and that seeing history in person is almost humbling and gives one an appreciation of the amenities modern technology supplies us with today.

“Projects like these help capture little pieces of history, that together, paint a picture of what life was like in the past and help instill a sense of pride in our community,” he said.

Printed on Thursday, January 26, 2012 as: Restoration of old cabin brings pride to residents

Lady Bird Lake received a makeover Saturday morning at the Keep Austin Beautiful volunteer cleanup day.

Keep Austin Beautiful organized six different cleanup sites around the lake. More than 200 volunteers collected trash either on the 10-mile hike-and-bike trail or on the water in boats, kayaks and paddleboards.

Trash accumulates on the shoreline after heavy rains, as well as on trails and parkland during nice weather when the park areas are more heavily trafficked, said Felix Padron, Austin Parks and Recreation Department’s park grounds supervisor.

Floating barriers trap some trash before it enters the lake, and both the Watershed Protection Department and the Parks and Recreation Department have crews that work to clean and maintain the trails, banks and waterways, Padron said.

“What [the volunteers] are offering is more manpower,” he said.

The majority of the trash in and around the lake arrives from one of the nine area watersheds, each associated with a different creek. Trash that ends up in storm drains and creeks will eventually find its way to Lady Bird Lake, said Jessica Wilson, Keep Austin Beautiful’s community programs manager.

“You can’t go to one of these cleanups and come away thinking the same way about plastic and Styrofoam,” Wilson said. “The lessons that people learn go a lot deeper, hopefully changing their habits overall and making them better stewards.”

UT history professor Leonard Moore brought his three young children to the cleanup.
He said they came to give back a little bit, spend some time outdoors and try to make an impact cleaning up.

Keep Austin Beautiful repeats the cleanup effort every two months, with volunteers usually collecting about 2,000 pounds of trash at each cleanup, Wilson said.

“It’s an amazing city and the more people that take ownership of their little piece, the better it’s going to be for everybody,” said Austin park ranger Jim Stewart.

Austin Parks and Recreation’s annual Pumpkin Carving Carnival at Parque Zaragoza Recreation Center will be held on Saturday.

The Pumpkin Carving Carnival started in 1997 and is part of Austin Parks and Recreation’s efforts to promote family and community participation and park awareness. In the spirit of Halloween and its festivities, the Pumpkin Carving Carnival features pumpkin decorating and carving, carnival attractions, like a bean bag toss and games stands with prizes, and an on-site haunted house.

“One pumpkin is given per family to take home and decorate, which promotes togetherness and gives them the opportunity to celebrate the holiday season both at the park and at home. Since the event is placed outside in the park, there are several activities and games that promote recreation and leisure education to do together as a family, including relays and carnival games,” said Claudia Rocha, site supervisor of Parque Zaragoza.

Face painting by carnival volunteers is also available with designs to accommodate anyone’s Halloween imagination.

A free pumpkin is given away to every family or person to carve, decorate and take home. The park will supply carving tools, paint, glitter and other craft accessories for those who want to design or carve their pumpkin. To complete the mystique and aura of the Halloween tradition, eerie music will be playing over the speakers throughout the day.

Typical carnival foods and drinks such as hot dogs, hamburgers, funnel cakes and fountain drinks will be there to satiate appetites.

Although carnival events last from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., a haunted house not designed for the faint of heart lasts from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and is not recommended for younger ages.

“[The haunted house] definitely isn’t something for younger children. This is something more for adolescents and college kids,” Rocha said.