Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Project Features
The Zilker Park Vision Plan project has placed a strong emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion, employing a range of strategies and initiatives to ensure that all community members have a voice and an opportunity to shape the future of Zilker Park. The project has adopted a comprehensive approach that encompasses accessibility, interactivity, and the inclusion of a diverse population. By integrating these principles into the planning process, the project team has sought to create a vision plan that reflects the needs, aspirations, and perspectives of the entire Austin community.
One of the key aspects of the project’s approach has been comprehensive engagement. Recognizing the importance of reaching all corners of Austin, the planning team made a deliberate effort to connect with residents in all 10 City Council Districts. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the project hosted a series of virtual community meetings supplemented by an in-person Open House in 2022. These meetings were designed to be inclusive and accessible, providing translation and interpretation services in languages such as American Sign Language (ASL) and Spanish. The project team has ensured that all promotional materials and content are translated into Spanish and release the promotional poster in 5 different languages: English, Spanish, Mandarin, Korean, and Hindi. By offering these language services, the project team aimed to ensure that individuals from diverse linguistic backgrounds could fully participate and contribute their insights.
Community surveys have played a vital role in gathering feedback and identifying which council district we need to have additional outreach. Throughout the planning process, multiple rounds of surveys were conducted, each focusing on different aspects of the Vision Plan. These surveys were made available online and in-person at pop-up events held in each district and Zilker Park. By offering multiple avenues for participation, the project team aimed to ensure that individuals who may face barriers to online engagement or prefer in-person interactions had equal opportunities to contribute their perspectives.
To foster broader engagement, the project team leveraged online platforms such as SpeakUpAustin and Storymap. These platforms served as spaces where community members could share their stories, experiences, and ideas about how Zilker Park could become more inclusive for all. By utilizing these web-based tools, the project team aimed to create accessible and interactive opportunities for participation, particularly for individuals who may not have been able to attend community meetings or pop-up events.
Recognizing the importance of meeting community members where they are, the project team organized more than 100 pop-up events in key locations across Austin, including all 10 districts and Zilker Park. These events provided a platform for engaging with a diverse range of individuals, allowing for meaningful conversations and the collection of valuable feedback. By taking the project directly to the community, the team aimed to bridge gaps in participation and ensure that diverse perspectives were represented in the Vision Plan.
In addition to large-scale community engagement efforts, targeted small group discussions were conducted, focusing on specific topics such as equity and inclusion, partnerships, and ecological enhancement. These focused discussions provided an opportunity for community leaders and groups to contribute their insights and perspectives, allowing for more in-depth exploration of critical issues related to Zilker Park.
Efforts to promote the project and its engagement opportunities have extended to media channels, including press releases distributed prior to each community meeting and engagement events. Major media outlets have covered the planning process, raised awareness and encouraged broader community involvement. The project team has also utilized social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Nextdoor, to share updates, meeting details, and opportunities for engagement, ensuring that diverse audiences are reached through multiple communication channels.
Various communication methods have been employed to reach community members effectively. PARD staff sent email notices to community members across several mailing lists, sharing information about the project, meeting schedules, materials, survey links and results, and pop-up event schedules. Additionally, signs and banners were strategically placed in high-traffic areas throughout Zilker Park, featuring QR codes that enabled park users to easily access the survey and project website using their mobile devices. Flyers were also distributed at pop-up events, parks facilities, and local businesses, allowing for wider dissemination of project information.
To deepen connections and gather input from individuals who may not typically participate in engagement processes, the project team piloted a community ambassador program. This program involved selecting community ambassadors who conducted in-depth interviews with community members about their perspectives on Zilker Park. By engaging directly with community leaders and ambassadors, the project team sought to capture insights and perspectives that might have otherwise been overlooked, ensuring a more inclusive representation of the community’s needs and aspirations.
In summary, the Zilker Park Vision Plan project has taken deliberate steps to consider diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout its engagement activities. By utilizing a combination of virtual and in-person meetings, surveys, online platforms, pop-up events, small group discussions, language access, media promotion, and community ambassador engagement, the project team has strived to create inclusive spaces and opportunities for all community members to participate and shape the future of Zilker Park. Through these efforts, the project team aims to ensure that the Vision Plan truly reflects the diverse voices and aspirations of the Austin community, making Zilker Park a place for all.
Zilker Metropolitan Park Vision Plan, the first comprehensive plan in the park’s history since 1917, tackles challenges faced by this iconic Austin destination. The park is immensely popular due to its proximity to downtown and Barton Springs Pool, a natural spring-fed pool with crystal clear waters. Because of heavy visitation, the park is experiencing ecological degradation, limited accessibility, and overuse issues. Austin’s oldest metropolitan park has seen little change over the years. Serving as a recreational hub with major facilities and events, Zilker Park plays a vital role in the community. To preserve it for future generations, a comprehensive Vision Plan has been developed.
This project stands out through its commitment to community engagement. Collaborating with the community, the plan secures support and funding. Addressing programming, maintenance, environmental features, historic preservation, transportation and mobility, and operations, the plan provides strategies for the park’s restoration and future stewardship. Through careful planning, and outlining of partnerships, operational strategies, revenue generation, and financial sustainability, the plan provides city leadership with a roadmap for the park’s longevity.
The Zilker Metropolitan Park Vision Plan is a comprehensive initiative aimed at charting the future development and management of Zilker Park in Austin, Texas. The project’s primary purpose is to ensure the long-term sustainability and vitality of the park while preserving its natural beauty and cultural significance. Through a collaborative and multidisciplinary approach, the landscape architects, working alongside the Parks and Recreation Department and many other stakeholders, seek to create a visionary plan that responds to the diverse needs of the community and integrates seamlessly with the surrounding urban context.
Zilker Park holds a special place in the hearts of new and old Austinites and visitors alike. The park’s historical and cultural importance, coupled with its ecological value, makes it a cherished public space. The role of landscape architects is to leverage expertise in urban design, ecological restoration, and placemaking to shape the future of the park. Collaborating closely with the City of Austin, the community, and many collaborators, the team developed a holistic vision that considers the park’s exceptional characteristics and addresses its complex challenges, including balancing a wide range of interests.
The Zilker Park Vision Plan considers the park’s context and its connections to the wider community. The team understands the park’s historical significance and drew inspiration from its iconic features, such as Barton Springs and the Zilker Botanical Gardens. By integrating these elements into the overall design, a cohesive and harmonious park experience is further enhanced. Additionally, the park’s relationship with adjacent neighborhoods, transportation systems, and other green spaces in Austin was considered, ensuring that it becomes an integral part of the city’s fabric, and the City’s investment in infrastructure like light rail is fully maximized
The project presents several factors that require careful consideration. Balancing the park’s natural ecosystem with the demands of a growing urban population is a significant challenge. The plan’s approach prioritizes the preservation and enhancement of the park’s ecological integrity, encompassing water quality protection, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable land management practices. Additionally, the diverse needs of park users were addressed by providing a range of recreational opportunities that don’t exist today in the park, or are underrepresented, and promotes equitable access for all across the entire ten districts of Austin.
Environmental sensitivity and sustainability are core principles underlying the Zilker Park Vision Plan, furthering the initiatives set forward in Austin’s adopted Climate Equity Plan. The plan employs strategies that restore and enhance natural habitats, implements sustainable stormwater management systems, and promotes native plantings to support local biodiversity. The plan calls for future projects to use renewable materials, build energy-efficient infrastructure and low-impact development techniques. With these recommendations in place, the net carbon impact within the park improved by 62%. Moreover, public education and outreach initiatives foster a culture of environmental stewardship among park users, reinforcing the park’s role as a living laboratory for sustainable practices.
The Zilker Park Vision Plan holds immense significance for both the public and the landscape architecture profession. By revitalizing and enhancing the park, the plan will provide a transformative experience for the park’s users, offering recreational, cultural, and educational opportunities. It will serve as a model for sustainable urban park design, demonstrating how public spaces can successfully balance ecological integrity, social inclusivity, and economic vitality, and not create a binary between these elements.
In summary, the Zilker Metropolitan Park Vision Plan represents a collaborative and forward-thinking endeavor to shape the future of this iconic urban park. Through community engagement, innovative design strategies, and a commitment to sustainability, the project aims to create a vibrant, inclusive, and sustainable park that enriches the lives of its visitors while setting a new standard for excellence in landscape architecture.
Documents and Media
Planning Docs (if applicable):